witf: In Philly suburbs, readers see more ‘ghost newspapers’

by Laura Benshoff/WHYY

If you open a community newspaper in the Philadelphia suburbs today, you’re likely to see a press release reprinted as a news story, or an article written by someone from the next town — or county — over.

While the decline of print journalism is often talked about in terms of laid-off reporters and shuttered offices, another symptom of the changing local news landscape is what does — and does not — fill the papers that are left.

Hedge fund-backed media companies have brought a slash-and-burn approach to pulling revenue out of papers in Philadelphia’s collar counties, reducing coverage of local governments and issues. Studies indicate losing these watchdogs can lead to diminished voter engagement and higher costs of government.

Montgomery County, the third largest in the commonwealth by population and second wealthiest per capita, provides one example for how this trend plays out regionwide.

For the reporters who remain at legacy newspapers, one metric of consolidation is their ballooning responsibilities.