Alarmed by the shuttering of hundreds of local newspapers in the U.S. as well as massive reporter layoffs in recent years, the Brookings Institution’s Clara Hendrickson undertook a study aimed at understanding what was at stake for American democracy and what could be done to reverse the trend. “Local Journalism in Crisis: Why America Must Revive Its Local Newsrooms” concludes, “When important stories go uncovered, communities do not have the information they need to engage in the political process and hold government and powerful private actors accountable.”
The Brookings report includes a number of suggested remedies that are being considered or have already been enacted elsewhere, including a tax deduction for subscribers to local news organizations, tax relief for publishers that produce public service news and public funding of news organizations. In addition, the report notes, “New regulations and antitrust enforcement targeting large online platforms can play a role in sustaining local media.”
Author Clara Hendrickson is a Research Analyst in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Her research interests include rising regional inequality, the economic and political challenges posed by “big tech,” antitrust enforcement, and the rise of populism in the U.S. and Europe.
"Local Journalism in Crisis: Why America Must Revive Its Local Newsrooms" - Clara Hendrickson
Why did you decide to undertake this research?
After Donald Trump was elected President, many of us who study domestic politics and policy wondered how our understanding of fellow Americans’ sentiments could be so off base. I couldn’t stop thinking about the growing disconnect between the national coverage we relied on and the local communities that ultimately determine our national democratic experience. A dearth of local reporting has given way to news diets dominated by national coverage that often focuses on partisan conflict in Washington. It has also entailed a loss of readily available information about local communities that can feed into national coverage. In this way, each cut inflicted on a community that saw its newspaper disappear - or become a former shell of itself - has cumulatively resulted in a nationwide wound. From the opioid crisis to the loss of manufacturing jobs across the American heartland, I’ve often wondered what developments other than the election of President Trump would have been detected earlier had there been more robust local coverage.