Friday, July 27, 2018

Local News Deserts In the Information Age

The Morning Call's Bill White has chimed in with a story about what Tronc, which owns his paper, has done to The New York Daily News, now half the size it was a few short days ago. "I’m one of the lucky ones who still is working here, so I’m not inclined to rant and rave too much," he writes. That's a problem. I expect rants and raves from columnists. But Bill apparently feels he has to keep his head down. I suspect that attitude is now prevalent at most newspapers, Journalists have been replaced by content providers who tell us the best five places in town to buy a hamburger. You won't see them at most municipal meetings.

It's weird. We have iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a host of social media platforms. But we now know less about what is going on locally than we did before the Information Age.   

The real problem is that, as this industry fails, so does democracy. There are still a gaggle of reporters who cover Donald Trump every time he passes gas, which is pretty much every time he opens his mouth. But there is very little coverage of what is going on locally. It's an atmosphere that invites corruption.

Believe it or not, a lack of news coverage also can be tied to an increase in the cost of government.

According to Governing, researchers at Notre Dame and Chicago Universities have determined that borrowing costs, government wages and taxes go up in a municipality when a newspaper stops covering it.

New Jersey recently has agreed to spend $5 million on a “civic information consortium” to provide news coverage of local communities that have become information deserts. Politicians will have no say in what is covered.

Lou Greenwald, who is the majority leader of the New Jersey state assembly, said this action is necessary for "the civic health of our communities. Study after study has shown what happens when local news is deficient or disappears altogether. Civic participation drops. Fewer people run for public office, fewer people volunteer.”

44 comments:

Moontrance said...

just another opportunity for you to take a swipe at your President.. It must be very sad to be so hateful.

Anonymous said...

Sad that local coverage fading across the region. You are correct and it has been ongoing for several years now. The public is powerless to stop the wave. The NJ experiment bears watching.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that you can't write your thoughts without some snide comment about President Trump ? Is your mind dominated by "Fuck You Trump", no matter what you write about.

Jeeze give it up.... hate monger.

Anonymous said...

"Politicians will have no say in what is covered."

That's the funniest straight line I've read in ages. Government-funded journalism. George Orwell was a sage.

Anonymous said...

@7:40
I look forward to the day when Trump isn't mentioned anywhere except at the top of the "Worst U.S. Presidents" list.

Anonymous said...

And thus the Ministry of Truth is born.

This is the worst idea ever. It's almost comical that, according to proponents, in order to save money at the local level the government has to instead blow money on state-run news.

And "Politicians will have no say in what is covered". Yeah, they'll just be responsible for the funding, which will certainly need to be approved on an ongoing basis. But that certainly won't affect coverage [sarcasm].

To top it off, "The Civic Information Consortium will be run by a board including academics from The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University." Certainly academics are fair-minded people in touch with the workings of the real world who are politically neutral [yes, heavy on the sarcasm there].

We are in an era of transition in the press. Big newspapers have chosen to cut their own throats by neglecting the local news in their communities and instead having their staff join the overabundance of voices covering the national news. Is there really a need to pay to read Bill White bash Trump and Republicans on a regular basis when I can easily get that elsewhere, and more eloquently than White could hope for?

All this will do is crowd out the potential alternative sources of information that would invariably spring up to fill the void. They won't be able to compete with government-subsidized local "news".

Instead of furthering democracy this will help kill it. If you still want state-sponsored news, travel to any communist country and see how well that's working out.

Anonymous said...

It is said the federal government owns over half of the real estate in this country. It seems that President Trump owns over half of the mental real estate in the mind of Never-Trumpers like O'hare; and the president delights in the ongoing demolition he supervises on these blighted, nonproductive brownfields.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

It is inevitable that newspapers will disappear. I have not bought or even accepted a free copy of morning call due to their biased practice even for their advertisers. I do not believe the younger generation will ever read a newspaper. It seems they are mostly a vehicle to distribute flyers. But they are being replaced by writers as yourself. Newspapers lost their objectivity some time ago. The national TV media has mostly self destructed by their partisan and often misleading and false reporting. There is an opportunity for internet reporting to replace newspapers. It may be an evolution for that to happen. I believe their is a thirst for unbiased objective reporting. There was a day when that was the norm. While you at this time are doing this for no money, to have a real sustainable internet news will require financing and a group of honest reporters. While you and myself are not always objective, it would need to be the rule for commercial success. But the problem arises when someone else is paying the bills the pressure for bias would increase. Regardless, local news will be covered by internet reporters in the future. It will be better than government financed newspapers.

Anonymous said...

You sit back and take notes at Bethlehem township commissioner meetings which I don't consider reporting. When do you, a resident or commissioner ever question a line item on monthly bills or pcard purchases? Until real reporting is returned, spending as usual with little or no oversight is the new norm.

Anonymous said...

NY Post is #1 because they are fair, you have no Respect for Our President as you are not in the real world=Bubble of Nazareth !

Anonymous said...

This is as self-serving of a post as has ever appeared here.

If this idea expands, who would those impartial academics have to turn to for content? Maybe bottom-feeding bloggers?

And those bottom-feeding bloggers couldn't be expected to provide that content for free, right? Especially if there's government funding available.

Anonymous said...

So happy the United States has a real President who won't play the loser Lame Stream Media's propaganda games. America simply does not need fake news providers like CNN, MSNBC, etc. It really is not an accident that Monica Lewinsky's ex-boyfriend's wife lost --- America is simply not as stupid as Democrat hacks like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Bernie O'Hare would like them to be.

Anonymous said...

Why would I want to pay any attention to such a Democrat Party mouthpiece as Bill White?

Canary_In_Coalmine said...

Thanks Bernie for shining a light on this important issue.

Local news at its best creates shared reality, weaving a vital social fabric.

At the national level that fabric is fraying because increasing numbers of liberals and conservatives alike only turn to news sources that confirm their existing views and/or push outrage buttons. We are becoming a nation of people who refuse to hear facts we don't like, following the President's example.

At the local level, many sites have sprung up to fill the void under the non-profit model. See the Institute for Nonprofit News @ inn.org for more information. We need local journalism if we are to keep our democracy.



Anonymous said...

Bill White runs an opinion column, he was a journalist at one time, today he's not. White has a louder mouthpiece than most people, as he writes in a newspaper.

His opinions have as much weight as anyone else s. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the internet service providers should kick some money in to the local newspapers

Anonymous said...

The romantic view of journalism is naive and absurd. Yellow journalism started a war.
Journalism is a business. It always has been. Journalists and editors have always made decisions on what will appear on their pages as news. I recall a local journalist from a previous era who dutifully covered police logs. A guy from the neighborhood was arrested on the kind of charge that usually showed up in police log, or even in a larger story. His mom knew the reporter and kept his name out of the paper with a quick phone call. It's always been this way about all stories. More and faster information is available today than ever before. The difference is that old media models no longer control the information flow. They were never impartial gate keepers and whatever succeeds them won't be either. But that's no reason to suddenly desire a Ministry of Information. And don't believe the statements about political impartiality. Our government lies to us regularly and always has - even in the so-called golden age of newspapers. This blog uncovers Republican misdeeds, but cheer-leads for Democrats every time they have a solid BM. That's OK because it's what loyal visitors have grown to accept. It's slanted, but understanding the bias still allows for getting information. Caveat emptor.

Anonymous said...

O'Hare your blog has been taken over by the teabaggers. They are really amazing. Their flat earth approach to life is incredible., All hail tRump!

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

It is sad, the decline of local newspapers. Believing in their importance, I still hang on with a subscription, but seriously debate it every year when the bill comes-- increasing prices for decreasing content.

At most meetings in my own municipality as recently as the early 2000s, there would be a reporter from the MCall, the Express, and for a while an on-line called the Patch. Three reporters! And they didn't just report what was said at the meeting itself. They often did background research on topic/issues, and sometimes followed up with inquiries of the officials, before the story went to press. Now? We are fortunate to periodically read your reporting of meetings, and when you hang it up there will be nothing.

While many, many, benefits, one of the negatives of the internet has been the death of local journalism. Your post about the impact on the efficiency and cost of government is interesting. It reminds of the old saying, "when the cat's away, the mice will play." And its not just local government meetings. As Canary noted above, back in the day when nearly everyone got a newspaper, it was part of the shared social fabric: government, sports, community happenings, etc. With few getting a local paper, and too many relying on the echo-chamber sources for national news, the local fabric weakens.

Anonymous said...

"Politicians will have no say in what is covered."

Since New Jersey is controlled by Democrats and 90% of "journalists" are Democrats,
politicians don't need to have a say.

The journalists will paint the proper "narratives" on their own.

Anonymous said...

Bill White is a paid shill and he knows it.

Anonymous said...

What's killing local papers isn't a lack of coverage, it's that the public has more information than ever before.

As a previous comment noted, minutes are available online for many municipalities. In others, videos of meetings are available for me to view at my convenience.

I don't need the newspaper to tell me what I should be concerned about. For instance, the Morning Call will typically only cover the one agenda item that they deem important, along with their spin on it.

Or, I can go to my municipalities website, watch the meeting video, and see what happened for myself. That way, I know everything that happened at the meeting, including what the Call DIDN'T want me to know about (or didn't think was important enough for me to know about).

Best of all, I can find all that out immediately (or almost immediately). I don't have to wait until tomorrow for the Call to give me yesterday's news.

The Call and other newspapers are still operating under a 50 year old model. If they want to survive, I'd suggest they make changes to how they report local news.

Bernie O'Hare said...

George Schaller or Red, I will delete any comment you post here unless it is written in English and minimizes the use of foul language. I have told you this many times.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:00, A post about the decline in newspapers is no basis for yo to tee off on Matt Dees' blog coverage. If you want to do that, ID yourself.

sezary said...

"There are still a gaggle of reporters who cover Donald Trump every time he passes gas, which is pretty much every time he opens his mouth."

There is definitely too much of a focus on the minutia and all things Trump. It's like we're living more and more in a reality TV show. More and more attention is paid to the fleetingly popular and trending. Not enough is paid to the bigger picture, the longer term. Bernie, however, you are not around every time the President passes gas. Much of it stinks, badly. I'm sure he passes quite a bit while you're not listening.

The more involved I get and the more I know, politically and communally, the more there seems to exist which pisses me off. Sometimes, common sense, communication and collaboration seem to be absent, especially from government. That's just locally. I cringe when I think about how things must be at higher levels of government. Then again, locally is where one can have a greater impact, a larger voice.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:04, You are being completely dishonest. I doubt very much that you spend your days reading the minutes of all meetings, which are usually unavailable for months after a meeting. If you did, you would know this and would not be posting such nonsense. There are only a few municipalities who provide video and I seriously doubt that you watch more than one of them.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars or newspapers, but in ourselves. This society has completely abdicated its role as citizens while in the Civil War era, there were at least three newspapers in Easton alone. And you can't even be honest. Yet you tell newspapers about their business model.

Doh Biden said...

Bernie's trump derangement syndrome is on par with Shawn Christy of McAdoo, if you want to read a local blog that respects our commander in chief head over to Molovinsky on Allentown where like minded folks can have adult discussions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"O'Hare your blog has been taken over by the teabaggers. They are really amazing. Their flat earth approach to life is incredible., All hail tRump!"

They can try but they will never succeed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I have not bought or even accepted a free copy of morning call due ... "

Refusing to read a newspaper bc it is too liberal or too conservative just demonstrates a closed mind.

Anonymous said...

You cannot have a free press without anonymity and you can't have anonymity when every phone call and email is recorded, where ones meta-data is captured for future examination.

Any hope for a free press died on 10-26-2001. But let me say this, the hamburgers are fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Bernie...your 11:28 comment hits the nail on the head. The problem is us...our society. It's too fractured, self centered and selfish. Too many care only about themselves and want to be entertained 24/7. The real question is....how does that get turned around? You have any ideas?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think that is happening right now. People are waking up to the Authoritarian in office and are getting involved. Women especially.

Anonymous said...

I just wish I had a commander in chief I could respect. The current one is a godawful disgrace.

Anonymous said...

"Their flat earth approach to life is incredible., All hail tRump!"

... says a drone from the pro-science crowd that claim 27 genders and climbing.

Anonymous said...

president Trump was elected because the people are sick of politicians trump is dong good --look at foreign affairs much better shape period the economy 4.1 growth this guy will go down as one of the great leaders not a politician like 99% are. trade wars sure trump is winning here their all starting to fall just like the president said. we need trump for 6 more years because after president Trump it is back to politicians

Anonymous said...

Information is not important to most. Look at the winners of the last several elections. Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton were/are unmitigated disasters. The electorate is dumb and getting dumber. The results speak for themselves. Every paper could go away and we be no worse off.

Anonymous said...

There was a time of small towns wherein citizens worked and played on just about all levels. They knew so many of town families or family names through walking distance neighborhood schools, local churches, local bars and soda fountains and through the local newspaper who would publish each engagement, marriage, and teener-league game listing the young players, sharing college bound students info, the travels of the socially prominent, and more of the local scene. There was a civics section on all matters before city and county councils. We sat on our front porches and read the news at 5:00pm after work. We all know life in the Valley has changed through [1] population explosion filling the farmland and changing the more simple political subdivisions with vast residential and commercial developments and [2] the democratization of transportation, communications, and credit – all good on one hand but transformational on the other.

Many a town has morphed into a bedroom community of commuting middle management and professionals on one side, a small core of local downtowners on another, and the working poor on yet another. The more evenly distributed wealth in the postwar middleclass community [among businessmen, union labor, and unskilled, who shared local churches, bars, and athletic fields and who aspired and were able to move up the socio-economic ladder] is unbound. If a community whose neighbors are too busy to know each other and follow each others’ lives due to commuting, holding 3 jobs, and raising kids with iPhones, then how could a local newspaper matter? The activities of the downtown have changed to special events and a handful of come-and-go restaurants from the days of attracting people to shop at clothing stores, groceries, the fish market, the butcher, barber shops, cigar store, sweet shops, movie theaters, billiard halls, jewelry stores, leather stores, music shops, sporting goods stores, artisan shops, all. These are lost advertisers in the local newspaper.

Life is very good in our region but the vibrancy of the cohesive small town has withered and so has the vibrancy of the local newspaper reporting it.

Anonymous said...

Bill White still isn’t finished telling the world that Fed Ed was a brilliant Mayor who made some mistakes.
Bullshit in print.

Bernie O'Hare said...

2:21 interesting observations.

Anonymous said...

The Death of the Patch 3 years ago as a local news service, pretty much killed local journalism on the internet.

Anonymous said...

The Valleys small towns are losing their souls and Allentown’s steep decline is a blight for the entire region.
There is no legitimate news source here any longer. When Bill White is the top dog it’s clear that local news is dead.

E Mest said...

Bernie, I’ve always told you. I read you first each and every day if I want to know what’s going on locally! You always have the latest and most factual articles. It’s sad that newspapers aren’t reporting locally. Soon they’ll just be “papers” before they become extinct. Thanks for all your hard work Bernie!

Unknown said...

Such an important topic. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

Anonymous said...

It must be an embarrassing time to be a young Republican with good intentions. From our lying president to our enabling vice president, how can informed thinkers justify supporting such a cesspool. It is true that conspiracy websites have hijacked the minds of people. Certainly not the party of Lincoln and a bet the Reagans are embarassed too. You cannot masked despicable behavior with waving flaga.