It might feel like the daily news cycle is on overload. Between impeachment argumentation, mass shootings and war in the Middle East, you might feel overwhelmed. But by getting swept up in national arguments, you could be missing the most important news that could have the greatest impact on you – the local news.
Since 2004, 43 percent of newsroom jobs (reporters and editors) have been lost because newspapers, radio stations and TV stations have been consolidating or going out of business. This purge has left a lot of communities in what has been called a news deserts. News deserts can happen in both big cities and small towns. While national news is still available, reporting on local events is no longer possible.
Local news deserts are dangerous places because the professional media is not there to hold local officials and businesses accountable. There are no beat reporters attending city council or zoning commission meetings. Often, the only record of these events might be from the local government body on social media.
Most trained journalists are not interested in sharing their opinions about a topic – they leave that to your buddies on social media. Instead, they try to share both sides of a story and let you make up your mind. No, really! Professional journalists want to inform more than influence. And when it comes to your locality and things that can impact you right now, isn’t that what you need?
In these news deserts, changes to local policies, laws and codes can be introduced and enacted without your knowledge or input. It could be a major administrative transformation or a simple change to the signage on Main Street. The worst-case scenario could mean your shop is forced from its current location due to sudden zoning code changes. It could happen! You might not realize until you are issued a fine or told you have to find another location for your shop.
If you are in a news desert, make the effort to be involved with local politics. Attend a city council meeting or pay a visit to your mayor, make sure that they know what your business contributes to the community. Don’t take it for granted that they will monitor their Facebook comments or email. It is also critical that you support trade associations that can back you up at the city hall level and even on the national stage.
If you have a local newspaper or website that is actively – and accurately – covering local government and politics, support it with at least a subscription or if possible an ad for your shop. Local news sources are becoming a rare commodity.