For immediate release: Local journalism in jeopardy

Now you read it. Soon you won’t.

Journalism everywhere is facing problems. Recently, however, it hit close to home. 

Local journalism in the Hampton Roads and Newport News community has suffered several losses over the past few weeks. 

On Feb. 5, the owner of two local newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot and The Daily Press, accepted buyouts from 20 employees.

According to an article by Kimberly Pierceall, a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, these buyouts are part of a company-wide staff reduction within Tribune Publishing. Tribune owns both the Pilot and The Daily Press, as well as the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.

These buyouts caused 20 experienced journalists in the area to leave newsrooms in the past few weeks alone. The local newspapers lost staff members ranging from news and sports reporters to photographers all the way to editors and managing editors.

A year ago, Tribune bought out another group of local reporters as well.

What’s even more shocking is that this isn’t just happening in the Hampton Roads and Newport News area.

It’s happening all over the world. 

Local journalism is under attack everywhere. Large media conglomerates are buying out small, local newspapers at alarming rates. 

Recent studies conducted by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism shows that more than 1,300 local U.S. communities have totally lost local news coverage. 

20 percent of all community newspapers have gone out of business or have merged with a large media corporation since 2004.

Local newspapers that are still in business are scaling back coverage or laying off reporters in order to keep the paper running. 

So, why does this matter?

The press used to be heralded as the fourth estate, but that time has long passed given the new culture of “fake news” that has emerged in our society. 

Journalists are responsible for keeping the government in check by reporting on current events accurately and fairly so citizens are informed to make decisions. 

Without local journalists, it is virtually impossible for local officials to be kept in check. Community members will be left in the dark on what is happening in their districts. 

Imagine trying to keep up to date on issues in the city council or local school board without a journalist at meetings to ask questions and analyze responses to write articles for the public. 

Local news is the most relevant news. Obviously, what is happening in the national and world news is important as well, but local journalism is even more important.

Local news is the most proximate for citizens. There is a bigger sense of concern because the community shares the same locality. Local journalism is important because it is local journalists in the community writing stories about news within the community, for the community. 

If we want to solve national and world issues, it starts at a local level. You need small, local changes in order to make state-wide or nation-wide change. If you take local journalism away, you are taking away the main source of information citizens have. Without it, it will be harder for citizens to be aware of local problems concerning their community.

But that’s not the only problem local journalism is facing.

Local journalism has fallen victim to infotainment. Infotainment is more soft news typically found on television that combines information and entertainment as opposed to the more hard-hitting, investigative reporting local journalists do.

Yes, that means all of your CNN’s and Fox News and MSNBC’s are prime examples of infotainment. 

Now I’m not trying to attack or downgrade those forms of journalism. They are still important and do get us the information we need. 

However, in my experience, more people are willing to turn on CNN or Fox News rather than picking up the local newspaper. People are more drawn to the glamorized anchors reading teleprompters than reading articles local journalists have worked long hours on. 

As a student journalist, it is worrisome and sombering to look at the state of my profession. To see all of the local papers and journalists struggling in my field is distressing. 

Sometimes people joke that “print is a dying industry.” However, this once-humorous banter has become a reality given media conglomeration and flashy infotainment news shows. 

Support your local journalists. Subscribe to your local newspapers. They rely more heavily on subscriptions now more than ever. Pick up their articles rather than picking up the remote to turn on CNN or Fox News. Recognize the importance of journalists in your local community and the dangers of not having their professional reporting monitoring local government and other institutions. 

A decline in local journalism is not just a local problem. It’s a national one.

~Emma Dixon, CNUTV Director~

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