The death of the local newspaper, and the birth of something darker
It’s not news anymore that local news services are dying in the US, and it’s been a long-running concern that there’s nothing else that informs an electorate of local political decisions, or acts as a watchdog for your councils’ spending. An unpaid blogger is not going to voluntarily sit in government meetings. The Fourth Estate really is a pillar of democracy, and the loss of 2,100 local newspapers over the past 15 years means that “Without the accountability mechanism of local journalism, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness.” (Losing the News, PEN America.)
It’s this gap that conservative networks are taking advantage of, launching local papers, particularly in swing-vote regions, focussed on furthering a right-wing agenda. It’s suspected that many of the “journalists” writing for these papers aren’t in fact local, with one organisation having previously been busted for using Philippine-based writers using fake bylines.
Nieman Lab has mapped 429 of these partisan publications following an in-depth investigation to identify the networks behind this new news. Only eight have lent far-left.
If the loss of local news is a threat to democracy, this golem that’s stumbling into its vacancy is an all-out attack.