Thanks to digital technologies, we have more media sources than ever to get our news from, but when it comes to covering town halls, school boards, courts, and other local news, they mostly suck.
That's the takeaway message (though definitely not in those words) in a behemoth of a report (PDF) released Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission.
The 460-plus page report, titled "The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age," is two years in the making and was led by Beliefnet co-founder and former U.S. News and World Report National Editor Steve Waldman.
If forced to sum up the entire report in a single tweet, it would probably be "The Internet has revolutionized how we gather and consume information, but meanwhile local news has been damn near suffocated." Or, as Waldman and company put it on page 262:
There were about 13,400 fewer newspaper newsroom jobs in 2010 than there were in 2006, dropping from 55,000 positions to about 41,600. Over the years, newsmagazines, local commercial radio, and local TV have reduced their newsgathering staffs, as well. At the same time, Internet sites, cable news, and public radio have created new journalism jobs.
So, the Net picked up the slack for the shrinking old media then, right? Not so, says the report. It goes on to estimate that there are roughly 5,000 less reporters covering local "accountability" beats today than there were in 2000, and even back then there weren't nearly enough to cover everything. All told, the report estimates that the number of local beat reporters would need to be more than doubled to do the job right, at a total cost of about $1.6 billion--or $265 million if we just wanted to get back to 2000 levels.… Read more