Tim Atseff, once a ranking editor at the Syracuse Herald-Journal, mourns the decline of local newspapers
In my small, rural Illinois hometown, the local paper was never very good. It's been absorbed by a bigger nearby town, so there is even less coverage of city hall. The county has moved further and further to the right because, I think, there is no journalist to hold officials accountable. A few months after Covid hit, the county sheriff put out a statement on Facebook that he would not enforce the governor's Covid guidelines because people should be able to have graduation parties and picnics. Who would question him? Only Facebook commenters. Last year, the mayor of my hometown hired his buddy to do PR/grant writing for the city in a nine month position for $85k. This guy already worked a full time job and had no experience in PR/grant writing. I did a FOIA request for the meeting notes where the position was approved, the salary/benefits and anything else related. They claimed it was an emergency, so they didn't go through the normal process. When I was a public library director, I learned a lot about how local governments work, especially budgets. People would be shocked to see what goes on, particularly by people they know and like.
I think local news might need to reinvent itself. I have no idea what that might look like, though. I still prefer hard copy books to digital, but I can't remember the last time I bought a hard copy newspaper.
Powerful works, the self-portrait especially struck me.
I’m in Philly, the source of the hopeful article you linked to. Of course the Inquirer is our main local newspaper and WHYY our news radio. We are lucky to have a neighborhood newspaper, the Chestnut Hill Local with very local news and information. I recognize this is increasingly rare.
The article highlights philanthropy at the highest level but we, as individuals, can also support good local journalism. It wasn’t mentioned but the Inquirer and other PA newspapers have come together to support investigative journalism through spotlightpa.org. This initiative seems promising. Individuals can support them (tax deductible) and subscribe to newsletters too.