February 13, 2017

During the last two decades, a series of tectonic shifts in the journalism business have jeopardized newsrooms across the United States.

Erosion of print advertising. Disruption by tech giants like Google and Facebook. Financialization of the press.

Vast news deserts have emerged where once there was a healthy ecosystem of local and regional publications. In an election year marked by disunion between voters and the media, you don’t have to look far to find the culprit: fewer journalists talking to fewer people.

Too often, this crisis gets overlooked by the press. The outlets that garner the most attention — places like The New York Times, NBC News, BuzzFeed — are the ones best-positioned to survive. Their business opportunities, tech prowess and global audiences give them a massive leg up on local newsrooms. Barring a catastrophic change in the media business (never say never) they’ll still be around 20 years from now.

And yet, these organizations remain more or less at the center of the media reporting universe. The crisis in American newsrooms is not reflected by the proportion of coverage from U.S. media observers (although many do excellent work on the topic).

At Poynter, we’re trying to change that. Thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation, we’ll be dedicating a reporter to covering the transformation of local and regional journalism full-time. As part of her new beat, Kristen Hare is launching a weekly newsletter devoted to the future of local news called (what else?) Local Edition.

This coverage runs parallel to our work teaching local newsrooms across America as part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. We’ll maintain our editorial independence and be transparent about our funding while reporting on newsrooms in the Knight-Lenfest program.

I’m confident Kristen is the right reporter for this important story. Over the last year, she has reported from inside newsrooms in Minneapolis, Miami, Orlando, Dallas and Washington, D.C., giving Poynter’s readers a first-hand look at the obstacles and successes among news organizations faced with the enormous challenge of reinventing themselves. Look for more thorough, deeply reported stories carrying her byline in the days, weeks and months to come.

There are compelling and important stories for the future journalism scattered throughout the United States: A rising tide of independent online publishers, big-city outlets reinventing their newsrooms, news organizations going directly to their audiences for support. The last two decades have been tough, but many local newsrooms are beginning to reap the fruits of their bitter labor.

There’s no sign that the digital transition is stopping or even slowing down. If anything, the pace of change across America is only increasing. Local news is in the fight of its life, and Poynter will be there to cover that battle from the front lines every day.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

More News

Back to News