News Hole

News Hole

The Demise of Local Journalism and Political Engagement

Author(s): Danny Hayes, Jennifer L. Lawless
Publication Date: 16-09-2021

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In recent decades, turnout in US presidential elections has soared, education levels have hit historic highs, and the internet has made information more accessible than ever. Yet over that same period, Americans have grown less engaged with local politics and elections. Drawing on detailed analysis of fifteen years of reporting in over 200 local newspapers, along with election returns, surveys, and interviews with journalists, this study shows that the demise of local journalism has played a key role in the decline of civic engagement. As struggling newspapers have slashed staff, they have dramatically cut their coverage of mayors, city halls, school boards, county commissions, and virtually every aspect of local government. In turn, fewer Americans now know who their local elected officials are, and turnout in local elections has plummeted. To reverse this trend and preserve democratic accountability in our communities, the local news industry must be reinvigorated – and soon.

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