School board and city council meetings are going uncovered. Overstretched reporters receive promising tips about stories, but have no time to follow up. Newspapers publish fewer pages or less frequently or, in hundreds of cases across the country, have shuttered completely.
All of this has added up to a crisis in local news coverage in the United States that has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a report by PEN America released on Wednesday.
“A vibrant, responsive democracy requires enlightened citizens, and without forceful local reporting they are kept in the dark,” the report said. “At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared fact-based discourse on the issues that most directly affect us is more essential and more elusive than ever.”
The report, “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions,” paints a grim picture of the state of local news in every region of the country. The prelude is familiar to journalists: As print advertising revenue has plummeted, thousands of newspapers have been forced to cut costs, reduce their staffs or otherwise close.