Local newspapers are suffering, but they’re still (by far) the most significant journalism producers in their communities

“While local newspapers accounted for roughly 25 percent of the local media outlets in our sample, they accounted for nearly 50 percent of the original news stories in our database.”

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Local newspapers have always been the epicenter of local news ecosystems. While communities may have other sources of journalism, such as TV and radio stations and online-only outlets, the bulk of the reporting serving local communities has traditionally been provided by local newspapers.

Local newspapers have also been hit particularly hard by the economic challenges confronting local journalism, which raises questions about whether these papers still serve as the lynchpins of local reporting in their communities, and whether other types of outlets are stepping up to take their place.

With these questions in mind, we conducted a study that explores which types of outlets are the most significant producers of journalism in 100 randomly sampled communities across the U.S. This study is a continuation of previous research, in which we produced an inventory of all media outlets located within these 100 communities, and gathered a week’s worth of news stories found on these outlets’ home pages (over 16,000 stories in total). We then analyzed these stories to determine whether they met each of the following three criteria: 1) was the story original; 2) was the story local; and 3) did the story address a critical information need. More methodological detail can be found in our full report.

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