What can local media offer that mainstream outlets cannot? According to Joe Friedrichs, a radio news presenter from WTIP Community Radio in Grand Marais, Minn., local media has a distinct advantage over national media companies because they are embedded in the communities they report on.
“We know the issues that impact residents and have a better understanding of what people are saying and feeling,” Friedrichs explains. “National media come and go, but we are always here, reporting from the streets.”
Brian Larsen, a journalist from the Cook County News Herald says local news plays a critical role in keeping citizens informed about their community. “Local media allows the average citizen caught up in their day-to-day lives to stay connected with what’s going on in their community,” says Larsen. “We share stories, pictures, and other items of interest that wouldn’t be considered newsworthy in a larger publication, but are highly valued here.”
However, despite the benefits of local news, Rebuild Local News reports that 1,800 communities lack local news coverage, which can have harmful consequences. According to the organization, less local news can lead to more government corruption, less civic engagement, increased polarization, lower voter turnout, more misinformation, higher costs for local government, and less knowledge about local and federal candidates.
To address these challenges, local news journalists stress the importance of investing in quality reporting, government support and fair compensation from big tech companies for sharing news content. “Money, or lack of money, the giant tech companies like Google and Facebook can take stories and run them for free on their sites,” says Larsen.
Last December, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) encountered pushback after U.S. Congress dropped the proposal that would allow media organizations to negotiate revenue-sharing deals with big tech. The decision was made after Facebook stated it would “consider removing news from our platform” if lawmakers moved forward with the proposal.
As local news media struggles to survive without financial support, “it is possible that local newspapers will no longer be available or present in many small towns in the United States,” Friedrichs says. “However, with continued state and federal support, along with strong membership financial contributions from community members, community radio can remain strong and relevant for many generations to come.”
For professionals in this area, local news provides valuable perspective on issues that matter to communities across America. As such, they say it is critical that we support and invest in local news to ensure that all Americans have access to reliable information about their communities.