Op-ed: The importance of supporting our local news media

Last week, the National Civic League sponsored an online workshop “Cities Fortifying Democracy,” the basic message of which was that, like charity, democracy begins at home. And one of the key points was the importance of local journalism.

As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in The Elements of Journalism, “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”

Unfortunately, many Americans don’t believe themselves to have that information. In fact, in 2016, nearly 100 million eligible Americans (43%) didn’t vote for president, and many didn’t even register. The 100 Million Project found that one of the primary reasons offered for not voting was that people didn’t believe themselves to be adequately informed to do so.

Part of the reason for this state of affairs is the nationwide decline in local news. Sarah Fischer writes, “Around two newspapers in the US are closing every week” (“The local news crisis is deepening America’s divides,” AXIOS, July 4, 2022).

And in “The State of Local News, 2022,” Penny Abernathy of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism writes:

“This is a nation increasingly divided journalistically between those who live and work in communities where there is an abundance of local news and those who don’t. . . .

“In communities without a credible source of local news, voter participation declines, corruption in both government and business increases, and local residents end up paying more in taxes and at checkout.

“This is a crisis for our democracy and our society. Troubled by the potential consequences, journalists, policymakers, philanthropists, industry executives, scholars and concerned citizens have stepped up efforts to save local news.”

Fortunately, in the Keweenaw area, we have a variety of local news media that cover the news objectively and that – individually and collectively – present a broad range of editorial opinions.

For example, Daily Mining Gazette owner Ogden Newspapers subscribes its newspapers (54 dailies and 81 weeklies) to syndication services, including Creators Syndicate, from which local editors choose the editorial cartoons to include in their newspapers.

Of 31 editorial cartoons that appeared in the Gazette in recent weeks by nine different cartoonists, 15 were created by cartoonists rated left, 15 were created by cartoonists rated right, and one was created by a cartoonist rated center by AllSides, a company that assesses political biases of media outlets. That’s a pretty well-balanced range of opinions.

In addition, having a left or right rating from AllSides doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the work produced by a given cartoonist will display that bias. Reasonable people might agree that 40 percent or so of these 31 cartoons were nonpartisan.

Fortunate as we are to not be living in a “news desert,” we should not take this situation for granted. Please support our local news media. Read, watch, listen, subscribe and share with friends and neighbors. Our options include The Daily Mining Gazette, Keweenaw Report, Copper Country Today, Copper Beacon, Keweenaw Now, ABC10 News, NBC TV6, The Michigan Tech Lode and more.

Craig Waddell is a Houghton resident.


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