If you’re reading this column in your local newspaper, congratulations! Just by skimming your eyeballs over this page, whether it’s in print or online, you’re doing a vital service for your hometown, and for democracy as a whole. (Go ahead and take the rest of the day off.)
It’s no secret that local journalism is in trouble, and has been for quite some time. According to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, the weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers has been on the decline for twenty-eight consecutive years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that between 1990 and 2016, the number of newspaper employees in the U.S. declined from 456,300 to 183,000.
Despite the vitriol that publications like The New York Times and The Washington Postattract from the Trump administration, it’s not the national news media outlets that we need to worry about. Their subscription numbers are on the rise. It’s the smaller newspapers that serve local markets that are suffering. Many are chronically understaffed. Some have shuttered altogether. A map created by the Columbia Journalism Review reveals that communities all across the United States have been “left with no daily local news outlet at all.”