OPINION: The Value of Local News

A merger between two of the country’s largest media broadcast companies, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, has fallen through.

It would have been a $3.9 billion deal, and free press groups everywhere are celebrating its failure.

All the major media networks with a conscience will readily admit that local journalism is essential, and that deals like this one can only spell disaster.

Are there benefits to national and international news networks? Absolutely.

Even syndicated ones? You bet.

The ability to transfer information across borders, oceans, and continents within an organized network for quick and efficient dissemination is absolutely essential, and it’s a role that only the large networks can accomplish well.

But local journalism provides its own unique benefits, as well.

National outlets like CNN, NPR, and all the others don’t generally cover local elections. They don’t tell you who’s running for the local sheriff’s office, or who is aiming to become your state’s next prosecutor.

All of these local civic and governmental positions have profound effects not only on our immediate lives as residents of those towns and states, but also on our national democracy as a whole.

A majority of the American population is under the unfortunate perception that democracy works from the top down — you elect the right president and everything changes from there.

In reality, it is quite the opposite.

A healthy democracy, one that truly is made by the people and serves the people, is a grassroots system that works from the bottom, up.

That, of course, requires active participation from the democracy’s citizens — its voters.

The United States has an abysmal voting record — less than half of the eligible electorate regularly turns out for elections, and even then, we’re only talking presidential elections.

Local and state elections see far worse participation.

And a huge reason for this is the steady disappearance of local news. In part, the decline of the newspaper and the radio are to blame, but more than anything it’s the syndication of local news networks into giant conglomerates like Sinclair Broadcasting.

When Sinclair forced its TV anchors to read the same script across the nation, people got an idea of what truly monopolized media looks like — what state media looks like.

When local news sources disappear — whether they’re newspapers, radio stations, or TV stations — people become less informed about their local politics and therefore less equipped to make decisions that will benefit them both in the here-and-now as well as in the future.

Our government was meant to be “by the people, for the people,” and that will only become a reality when the people of this nation are not only motivated but enabled to seek out relevant information and to act on it in all elections at every level, local to federal.

And that starts with local news.

So please, if your town still has a local newspaper, consider subscribing — even if it’s a digital subscription, you’ll save trees that way!

If your city has a local radio station, tune in now and again, or consider becoming a donor, especially for your local NPR station.

Instead of tuning into CNN or MSNBC, maybe check out your local TV news station instead.

Even subscribing to your local Patch page on Facebook is a way to support local journalism.

It’s important to remember, of course, that this is only the first step.

By equipping yourself with the tools to access information, you take on the responsibility to act upon it, to vote.

If you haven’t registered already, you can find the link to do so on our Resources page.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, healthy democracy requires grassroots participation at every level — and local news.

 

 

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