The Silent War Against Local News

The Quiet Death of Local News



Local news is slowly burning down and dying.

Sounds clickbait right? It’s actually not and has been going on for years now, and we’re only truly seeing major effects now. And I would like to explain it in a single question. How many of you have read the local news during this time of uncertainty?

Newspapers have been a staple of news since the invention of the printing press, but it has started to be replaced by digital news sites.

Local news has been on a quiet downhill fall for years. In Virginia alone, there were 2.4 million total papers in circulation, since then it’s dropped to 1.5 million total papers, a -38% decrease in newspaper circulation since 2004 to 2019 (according to the University of North Carolina’s Hussman school of Journalism and Media). And with that comes the question of if those losses of newspaper circulation being completely lost or going digital, but there’s another problem that lies in that question, currently, there are only six online groups that cover Virginia currently, excluding school news, according to LION’s (Local Independent Online News Publishers) membership records. And those six online groups have quite the job: the Annandale Blog is a singular city coverage in a county that only has one county-wide newsgroup, ARLnow is one, if not the only newsgroup, in Arlington, Charlottesville Tomorrow has a little work, being apart of three newsgroups located in the city. Other newsgroups are pretty much the same, either being one of the only newsgroups in the area or being apart of, basically, a news surplus.

Then the question has to be: how many newsgroups are there? Well, let’s continue our focus on our state, Virginia, then we can look outward, and all of the following information is from the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. In 2004, Virginia had twenty-three daily and one-hundred-and-thirty-two weekly newsgroups for a total of one-hundred-and-fifty-five, and in 2019, fifteen years, it dropped by -27%, then only having twenty daily and ninety-three weekly newsgroups for a total of one-hundred-and-thirteen. And with the six digital newsgroups only make the -27% drop of newsgroups smaller by 8% for a total drop in newsgroups to -19%. But let’s look outside of our own state to the local states and district.

In our national capital, the District of Columbia, they have held a constant of two dailies over the fifteen years but their weekly has gone from eleven to five, resulting in a total of a -46% decrease in local news. Our next alphabetical neighbor, Kentucky, does a better job at keeping their newsgroups alive, with a total drop from one-hundred-and -fifty-seven to one-hundred-and-forty-two for a percentage drop of -10%. Maryland, however, isn’t so lucky, with a drop of -52% of their total newsgroups, going from one-hundred-and-ten to fifty-three. North Carolina has a drop of -22%, with five counties in 2019 without local news. Tennessee is better off with -13%, however, four counties don’t have local news. And finally, our daughter state, West Virginia: they are one of the best neighboring states, with only a -15% drop and only one county without news.

In most stores, you’ll find a wall of magazines that store news within them, however, most are by larger groups than by smaller, more local groups.

With all of this information, or more accurately a lack of it, during this period of fear and confusion, people may not know how their own county, let alone state, is doing during this time of crisis. And all of this leads to even more fear and confusion. I remember when the news of someone in Williamsburg had been tested and came out positive, I kept updating my national map of the spread of the virus, hoping to find an update about Williamsburg. I didn’t have a local group that I knew of that would give an update, only national. And that is part of the fear of most people who know about this, that all local news will be forgotten for groups like CNN, Fox, ABC, BBC, and others. And that is why if you look up “Local news” in Google or any other search engine, and select the News tab, you’ll only find a handful or so of actually local newsgroups stories about local news, others are either the big newsgroups or branches of them.

However, here and there, one small group or even a larger group, are starting to advocate a shift away from the big newsgroups and more toward smaller and more local groups. But with all of what’s going on, it will take a while for it to die down and return to a new normal without fear of COVID-19. And when that day comes, many things will change, some things will be dead, other’s thriving, and some will be brought back to try and regain our old normal. But when all that’s done, the question will still stand: What about the local news?