There’s understandable worry that communities across America are losing their local newspapers, and so one hears that something simply must be done to save them. Clara Hendrickson, in Local journalism in crisis: Why America must revive its local newsrooms, proposes that we (1) “provide public funding for local journalism” (via tax incentives, mainly), (2) “address the ways large online platforms undercut the business model for local news” (principally by taxing those enterprises more).
It’s a bad, bad idea for government to subsidize – by whatever means – local journalism:
Local journalists in America who depend on government will find themselves vulnerable to government pressure.
Many of these newspapers have already run themselves into the ground, and have been absorbed into large, out-of-market chains that will be the ones to receive any tax credits.
These remaining local newspapers are – even while publishing – contributing to a news desert: flimsy stories, news features that are little more than single-source government press releases, etc.
Just as a desert isn’t the absence of anything, so a news desert isn’t merely the absence of newspapers: it should also be understood as an arid landscape of limited foliage and growth. These local newspapers, even now, are part of a dry, desiccated condition by their own failure to report in detail and robustly.
These men created this desert, and they should not be rewarded for it. If they want more, they should offer more to market in substance and style. If they want better, they should do better.
See a FREE WHITEWATER category, Newspapers, chock-a-block with examples of deficient local newspaper reporting.