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 I suspect that attitude is now prevalent at most newspapers, Journalists have been replaced by content providers who tell us the best five places in town to buy a hamburger.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.”