Rebuilding Trust in Media via Local Journalism

Solutions Journalism Network

Publisher and assistant editor of The Quoddy Times (a local paper out of Eastport, ME) Lora Whelan told Atlantic reporter James Fallows “it can be boring … to go to city-council meetings every month, and county-commissioner meetings every month. But … those are the kinds of stories that local people need to know, and want to know, and that are getting lost with some of the papers that don’t have the resources ... It’s not exciting most of the time, but it’s critical.”

Over the last 15 years, more than 2,100 local news outlets have gone out of business: a devastating loss to the American media landscape at a time when public trust in journalism is already dangerously low. Trust in the media is positively correlated with news literacy; when audiences are better informed about how news functions, their faith in media rises accordingly. Because communities have greater exposure to local reporters, encountering them at events like high school sports and the aforementioned city council meetings, these local journalists are perceived as more trustworthy and caring than their national counterparts. In addition to building goodwill and disseminating information about local government and events (a need which larger flagship papers by definition cannot serve), local news fosters a greater sense of community belonging and civic participation in readers. 

Correspondingly, when the interdependent relationship between local news, news literacy, and a healthy democracy is endangered, partisanship and misinformation flourish. The articles in this collection highlight the ways in which local papers across the country have leveraged unusual methods of financial support, strong community relationships, and innovative publishing formats to fight the trend of closures and continue providing vital reporting.

Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on news and public information.

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