Why is it important to sponsor local news?

There are less than 16,000 journalists than there were 10 years ago.

As a nation, the days of a robustly staffed local newspaper are done. Radio and television news have also seen dramatic cuts over the years. The number of employed news analysts, reporters and journalists dropped nearly 27 percent from 2003 to 2019, with a total of 16,130 lost jobs, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s not including newsroom support staff.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the situation has become even more dire. More than a thousand news professionals have been laid off or furloughed in addition to layoffs and furloughs in digital media. Some news organizations have been forced to close shop altogether.

In June 2020, Microsoft News made global headlines when it decided to cut dozens of news people in favor of Artificial Intelligence new production on MSN.

Why Should You Care?

Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of The Chicago Tribune, perhaps said it best back in 1925, ”The newspaper is an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day, to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead public opinion and to furnish that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide.”

That same responsibility was passed on to the news radio evolution of the 1930s and the advent of television news in 1940.

But, according to the FCC’s 2011 report “The Information Needs of Communities”, the digital revolution has led to some serious problems:

“Most significant among them: in many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting. This is likely to lead to the kinds of problems that are, not surprisingly, associated with a lack of accountability—more government waste, more local corruption, less effective schools, and other serious community problems. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk at the local level.”

The report also states this loss of reporting capacity has meant a power shift away from citizens toward government and other institutions.

They recommended philanthropists change their approach to media, for without strong reporting “the issues that philanthropists care about—whether health, environment, children, fiscal responsibility—are all shortchanged. The public will be less well informed and institutions professing to solve the problems will be less accountable. Private individual donations will also need to play a bigger role, filling the civically-important gaps.”

In summary, local journalism is needed for a variety of reasons, from nurturing what makes a community a community to battling corruption and other abuses at the highest level. And it is within the power of every individual, business and organization to save it.