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Mon Nov 24, 2014, 04:01 PM

Journalists Aren’t Covering Local Elections. Our Democracy Is Suffering Because of It.

November 21, 2014

Journalists Aren’t Covering Local Elections. Our Democracy Is Suffering Because of It.

What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans now know the answer: elections with lots of paid ads but little journalism, context or objective facts.

BY David Sirota

On a warm October night toward the end of the 2014 campaign, almost every politician running for a major office here in the swing state of Colorado appeared at a candidate forum in southeast Denver. The topics discussed were pressing: a potential war with ISIS, voting rights, a still-struggling economy. But one key element was in conspicuously short supply: the media.

This was increasingly the reality in much of the country, as campaigns played out in communities where the local press corps has been thinned by layoffs and newspaper closures. What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans have now discovered the answer: You get an election with lots of paid ads, but with little journalism, context or objective facts.

Between 2003 and 2012, the newspaper workforce decreased by 30 percent nationally, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. That has included a major reduction in the number of newspaper reporters assigned to cover state and local politics. Newspaper layoffs have ripple effects for the entire local news ecosystem, because, as the Congressional Research Service noted, television, radio and online outlets often “piggyback on reporting done by much larger newspaper staffs.” Meanwhile, recent studies from the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank suggest the closure of newspapers can ultimately depress voter turnout in local elections.

Colorado is a microcosm of the hollowing out of local media. In 2009, the state lost its second-largest newspaper with the shuttering of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News. The state's only remaining major daily, the Denver Post, has had rolling layoffs.

More:
http://inthesetimes.com/article/17390/journalists_arent_covering_local_elections._our_democracy_is_suffering_beca

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