New sources of hope for local journalism

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Last year, Facebook announced a new content stream called “Today In” to aggregate local news from reputable sources, only to discover it couldn’t find enough local news to fill it. Such is the decimated landscape for local news in America. Between 2004 and 2018, nearly 1,800 dailies and weeklies closed, and although almost 400 digital upstarts have emerged, they are mainly found in big cities and affluent areas. In addition, we lost 45 percent of newsroom employees between 2008 and 2017, according to Pew Research.

Local journalism is in crisis, off and online. Years of downsizing in the face of digital disruption have weakened regional and local news organizations. And the problem is growing worse, as advertising continues to shift in substantial measure to Facebook and Google. The Wall Street Journal reported that these giant tech platforms had secured over 86 percent of advertising growth in the industry by 2017. They now have 77 percent of all digital advertising revenue in local markets and 58 percent at the national level. That leaves little for the local newspaper.

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