BY ANALISA TROFIMUK
Children were dying every month in Minnesota daycares due to violations of basic state guidelines. If it wasn’t for local reporters of the Minneapolis Star Tribune who through their investigative reporting forced state regulators and politicians to pay attention, children attending daycares could still be at risk today.
Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howat earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for their in-depth coverage on the spike of child deaths in Minnesota daycare facilities.
Allison Petty, Lee Enterprises’ Midwest regional digital editor, summarized in a recent tweet why investing locally is the wisest option if readers can only afford one subscription.
“Your (money) is critical to its survival. You get access to national and state stories via wire services, regional sharing,” said Petty. “Your community is strengthened by solid local reporting.”
The power of local news goes far beyond individual beat coverage, though that is certainly where it starts. Reporters who regularly work a beat meet sources, uncover issues, and get the closest look at concerns that impact their communities.
Joyce Dehli, a longtime journalist and Pulitzer Prize board member since 2008, wrote that local news is so much more than basic day-to-day happenings.
“It requires attentive listening to diverse sources, dogged examination of data and other records, and close observation of government at work,” Delhi wrote in an Pulitzer.org article. “It takes time and skill and requires on-site support of editors and other news leaders who live in the community and care about it.”
But newspapers, radio and television news outlets were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic. The outbreak of COVID-19 only made it worse. Hundreds of newsrooms were hit with layoffs and furloughs. And it was a slippery slope. At a time when news was in high demand, especially accurate and well fact-checked stories, newsrooms were rapidly losing employees.
Time Magazine reported earlier this year that among six chains that own hundreds of local papers, ad revenue dropped 42% during a quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year. Circulation dropped 8% according to a Pew Research report.
More than 90 local newsrooms have closed so far during the pandemic, according to the Poynter Institute.
What is the cost?
City council and school board meetings took place without proper media coverage, leaving the door open for taxpayer money to be used with little to no public input. Stories about neighbors helping one another were never told. In some towns, vaccine distribution information, COVID case numbers and critical health news continues to be relayed in an extremely limited capacity.
It is no secret that subscribing to multiple news outlets can be costly.
The special attention that local news reporters offer their respective coverage areas allows for a more informed, well-educated community.