16 Reasons for America’s Changing Relationship with Local News

The local news landscape in America is undergoing significant changes as consumers and producers adapt to the digital environment. These changes reshape how information is accessed, shared, and consumed in communities nationwide.

Role in Digital News Consumption

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A growing number of Americans now prefer to get their local news online. This shift has led to a decline in the number of people getting news from TV or print sources at a rate of 22%. Whereas, the rise of news consumption from online forms has increased from 38% in 2018 to 52% in 2024. These days people opt for physical newspapers less compared to local news stories online.

Low Financial Support for Local

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Only a small percentage of Americans, about 15%, have paid for local news in the past year. Many people seem unaware of the financial challenges faced by local news outlets. While most citizens believe their local news outlets are doing well financially, this is not the actual case. The lack of financial support threatens the sustainability of local journalism, potentially leading to reduced coverage and staff cuts.

Decreased Attention to Local News

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There has been a noticeable drop in the share of U.S adults who pay close attention to local news since 2018. This decline mirrors the decreasing attention given to national news. It indicates a broader trend in changing news consumption habits. As fewer people follow local news closely, there is a risk of diminished civic engagement and awareness of local issues.

Increased Use of Social Media for News

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Many Americans are turning to social media platforms for local news. Sites like Facebook groups have become popular sources, with 23% of people using them in 2024. This shift highlights the growing role of social networks in disseminating local information and connecting communities in real-time discussions. This sometimes leads to quicker updates on local events.

Neutrality vs. Advocacy in Journalism

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Most Americans believe local journalists should remain neutral on community issues. However, about three in ten think local journalists should take a more active role in advocating for change. This view is especially common among Democrats and yonder adults. It indicates the differing expectations for local journalism. This debate between neutrality and advocacy reflects the evolving role of journalists in addressing community needs and promoting social change.

Continued Value of Local News

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Despite changing habits, Americans still see significant value in local news and local journalists. A large majority believe local news outlets are important for the well-being of their communities.

Many also think local journalists are in touch with community issues and perform their jobs well, particularly inaccurate reporting. This connection helps maintain trust and relevance in local media despite evolving consumption patterns.

Fragmentation of News Source

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The digital age has led to a fragmentation of news sources. Instead of relying on a few major local news outlets, people now get information from a variety of online platforms and niche websites. This diversification reflects the broader array of choices available in the digital news landscape. It makes it easier for people to find news that aligns with their interests.

Challenges in Monetizing Digital News

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Monetizing digital news remains a significant challenge for local outlets. With a small percentage of people willing to pay for news, local media companies are struggling to find sustainable revenue models. This financial instability threatens the viability of many local news organizations and risks reducing the quality and quantity of local reporting.

Bipartisan Approval of Local Media

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Majorities from both major political parties agree that local media in their area are performing their jobs well. Although Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are slightly less positive than Democrats and Democratic learners.

On the other hand, local news does not face the same stark political divides seen in national media. This broad approval underscores the relatively non-partisan nature of local news. This is crucial for maintaining its role in informing diverse communities.

Trust in Local News

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Trust in local news remains relatively high compared to national news. People generally feel that local journalists are more reliable and less biased. This trust is crucial for maintaining the relevance of local news in a rapidly changing media environment. It ensures communities stay informed about important local issues.

Decline in Investigative Journalism

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The financial struggles of local news outlets have led to a decline in investigative journalism. Investigative reporting is resource-intensive, and many outlets lack the funds to support such efforts. This decline can reduce accountability and transparency in local governance. This weakens the public’s ability to scrutinize and influence local decision-making.

Adaptation to Mobile Platforms

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As more people use smartphones to access news, local news outlets are adapting by optimizing their content for mobile platforms. This includes creating mobile-friendly websites and developing apps to reach audiences who prefer getting news on the go. This adaption is crucial for staying relevant in a fast-paced, mobile-centric world.

Shift Towards Hyperlocal News

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The growing trend towards hyperlocal news coverage focuses on news and events at the neighborhood or community level. This shift acknowledges the importance of deeply engaging with local issues and interests. Hyperlocal news sources provide tailored content that resonates more closely with residents. It fosters a stronger sense of community and awareness.

Importance of Local News for Discovery

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Local news is crucial for a healthy democracy. It keeps citizens informed about local government actions, elections, and public issues. By providing this information, local news helps ensure that citizens can participate effectively in democratic processes and hold their leaders accountable. This fosters a well-informed and engaged electorate.

Role of Local News in Community Engagement

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Keeping up with what’s happening locally is not just about staying informed. It is about feeling connected to your community and being a part of the conversation. It provides a platform for discussing local issues and events, helping to build a sense of community. This role is particularly important in smaller towns and rural areas where local news can be a primary source of information. It promotes civic participation and local identity.

Impact of Consolidation

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Media consolidation has led to fewer independent local news outlets. Large media companies often acquire smaller outlets, leading to standardized content that may not fully address local issues. This trend can reduce the diversity of viewpoints available in local news, potentially neglecting unique community concerns and perspectives.

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