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Combating local news poverty

by Municipal World
in Communication, ONLINE FEATURE

Five ways to fight the decline of local news in your community

It’s no secret that local news is at risk. “Ghost newspapers” are popping up around the country, with newsrooms so depleted that the remaining journalists cannot meet the critical needs of their communities. Thousands of traditional journalism jobs have been lost in the United States and Canada. And, it’s small and rural communities that have been hardest hit.

So, what’s a municipality to do?

Speaking as part of an expert panel at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s 2019 annual conference in Toronto, April Lindgren – a Professor at Ryerson’s School of Journalism – shared five things that municipalities can do in order to combat the decline of local news.

1. Invest in improved internet service

Online news is the way of the future, explains Lindgren. People aren’t going to wait for a video or graphic to load. They need fast, affordable access.

2. Publish updates from city hall

Make sure updates are in an easy-to-understand format, like videos or email newsletters.

3. Provide community news from within the community

Ask your local library to display a newsletter with major updates and decisions from council, or upcoming events and issues.

4. Lobby the CBC

The presence of a public newscaster is twofold, says Lindgren: they produce news coverage, and they also encourage others to “boost their game.”

5. Support community foundations

Consider matching a grant or an endowment that generates reliable long-term revenue to support community organizations that produce quality local content.

Fighting against a changing media landscape will be a challenge, says Lindgren. Regardless of the medium, local governments will need to be proactive and innovative in order to combat the decline of local news – and the impact on their local communities. MW


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