It is clear that we have seen journalism shift and form to adapt to the changing environment. In our article, 3 Journalists on Funding the Future of Journalism, we looked at how outlets and publications are shifting their content to be more financially sustainable. Still, one often overlooked aspect of journalism is not how major outlets will last, but about how local journalism, arguably the foundation of journalism, will weather these storms. On our podcast, Coffee with a Journalist, we talk with journalists from many different outlets about their thoughts on the journalism industry, storytelling, and their day-to-day processes. We talked with 3 journalists on the fate of local journalism.
Here is what they had to say:
As most journalists know, local journalism is the lifeblood of reporting the news. From uncovering the latest national story to documenting grassroots current events and happenings, local journalists have been at the forefront of analyzing the world around them, asking the important questions, and disseminating the information to inform their audiences. As news and journalism change and shift, many local outlets and journalists are struggling to sustain the viability of their craft.
Olivia Solon, Editor of Tech Investigations at NBC News, knows this very well. When discussing the future of journalism, Olivia expresses her mixed sentiment about journalism being a balance between worry for local news and praise for the work being produced despite the hurdles. She says, “What does seem to be happening particularly in the US is this consolidation of power media players and then the sort of dying off of local journalism, which I think is a huge shame.” She continues, “it’s weird because there’s simultaneously some of the best work happening but also the outlook is not super encouraging for having a diverse media landscape in the future.” Olivia is not alone in these mixed concerns between local and national coverage.
During his podcast episode, Aaron Pressman, Fortune Senior Writer and co-author of the “Data Sheet” daily newsletter, said he had similar mixed feelings. When discussing journalism’s future, he said, “I’m feeling a little better about the big picture, and a little more worried about my local picture.”
Regarding local journalism, Aaron explains, “I’m pretty unhappy and sad about that no one’s really cracked and found a business model, and you have these private equity companies scooping up hundreds of local newspapers, and not caring that much about the quality of the journalism.” But on the larger level, Aaron says that “there’s a lot of things to feel good about. It seems like some of the big, great journalism institutions, like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, are doing very well, even in these tough times.”
Despite the gloom and apathy happening around local journalism, it is not over just yet. Maya Shwayder, a freelance journalist and former Tech and Privacy Reporter at Digital Trends, reminds us to keep some faith. Though hopeful about its future, Maya recommends the book, Ghosting the News, for an understanding of how we got to where we are today. It is by Margaret Sullivan, Media Columnist for The Washington Post. This book examines and analyzes the industry and cultural changes that contribute to the slow death of local journalism.
For Maya, one fundamental change she hopes to see in journalism relates to the evolution of delivery mechanisms for news and reporting. Whether it is through a subscription service or a newsletter, these new communication pathways allow local journalists and outlets more autonomy and control over their voice and platform. She believes that “there’s going to have to be a shrinkage or a nichification of the news” to create content that is relevant and important to readers. Nevertheless, Maya deeply believes that “journalism’s not going to go away. That I am sure of. But it’s going to change fundamentally.”
In the end, one thing is certain: local journalism is important and worth the fight to keep. Hear more about what that entails in Maya’s episode as she dives into the struggles of today’s journalists, the news fatigue of readers, and the “content beast” that is the internet.
Be sure to check out the rest of season 2 of Coffee with Journalists and subscribe to hear more conversations each week with fantastic journalists from your favorite publications. Also, follow us on Twitter for the latest news and blog releases!