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Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: how democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the US. One in five news organizations in Canada has closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians lives in news deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: how democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the US. One in five news organizations in Canada has closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians lives in news deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted politicians were elected, school superintendents were mismanaging districts, and police chiefs were getting mysterious payouts. This is not the much-discussed fake-news problem--it's the separate problem of a critical shortage of real news. America's premier media critic, Margaret Sullivan, charts the contours of the damage, and surveys a range of new efforts to keep local news alive--from non-profit digital sites to an effort modeled on the Peace Corps. No nostalgic paean to the roar of rumbling presses, Ghosting the News instead sounds a loud alarm, alerting citizens to a growing crisis in local news that has already done serious damage.


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Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: how democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the US. One in five news organizations in Canada has closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians lives in news deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: how democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the US. One in five news organizations in Canada has closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians lives in news deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted politicians were elected, school superintendents were mismanaging districts, and police chiefs were getting mysterious payouts. This is not the much-discussed fake-news problem--it's the separate problem of a critical shortage of real news. America's premier media critic, Margaret Sullivan, charts the contours of the damage, and surveys a range of new efforts to keep local news alive--from non-profit digital sites to an effort modeled on the Peace Corps. No nostalgic paean to the roar of rumbling presses, Ghosting the News instead sounds a loud alarm, alerting citizens to a growing crisis in local news that has already done serious damage.

30 review for Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a thin book (72 pages) with a topic that wouldn't seem to be much of a grabber: the demise of local journalism (read: newspapers, print & digital) and the negative ramifications, but it deserves a wide audience for its important warnings and high readability. It's not a revelation that the local newspaper industry has been in a death spiral for years. Prices have increased while content has steadily declined. Local reporting has been largely replaced with stories from the wire services. P This is a thin book (72 pages) with a topic that wouldn't seem to be much of a grabber: the demise of local journalism (read: newspapers, print & digital) and the negative ramifications, but it deserves a wide audience for its important warnings and high readability. It's not a revelation that the local newspaper industry has been in a death spiral for years. Prices have increased while content has steadily declined. Local reporting has been largely replaced with stories from the wire services. Papers have gone out of business. Readers have turned to the internet for weather, sports, movie listings and national news. Why does any of this even matter? Sullivan pursuasively argues that true local journalism is necessary to hold local leaders to account. The book opens with a local story from the Buffalo News saying the Orchard Park police chief, who was retiring abruptly, would receive an unexplained $100,000 as part of his departure. (I'll leave it at that but there's more to the story.) As I finished the book I chanced upon a story that the police chief in Methuen, MA was placed on leave after the Massachusetts state Inspector General found he violated his duty by orchestrating exorbitant police contracts. Earlier this year a story broke that this police chief was among the highest paid in the country with a salary of $326,707 in 2019, more than doubling his salary of $153,456 in 2017. This is Methuen, Massachusetts we're talking about. Population 47,255. We only know about this kind of conduct when there are journalists to report it. Corruption and graft will go on forever, even with good internal control systems in place and journalists to hold local leaders to account but think of the anything-goes behavior when no one is watching. I recall years ago when beloved felon Buddy Cianci was mayor of Providence, RI and the scandal du jour was about a former Providence fire department chief who had retired to Florida on an annual pension of $195,000 on a salary of $95,000 per year. It seems Buddy had built a groundswell of support on unsustainable city pensions that he left behind for his successors to contend with. This is a local problem. Yours, mine and everyone else's. As local papers have withered or disappeared free weekly papers have filled some of the void. But while much of their product is nice and helpful it is largely superficial community bulletin board or PR material. Changes in trash collection schedules, school opening & closing schedules, the Irish sports pages (b/k/a the obituaries). Some local news stations fill the gap with investigative teams that typically rely on tips to report consumer complaints. A valuable service but not a dedicated journalist digging through public documents or obtaining non-public material through Freedom of Information Law requests. I'm part of the problem. I canceled my newspaper subscription years ago and never gave it a second thought until I read this book. The author provides a few hopeful examples of people trying to make a go of it but it's hard to be optimistic. I suspect we're seeing the end of local newspapers but I would nonetheless recommend this book for its thoughtful messaging.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    A slim investigation about the ramifications of the seeming death of newspapers around the world. Yes, it affects those who work for the paper, but it also has an enormous affect on the communities since the local paper is the closest to an ombudsman communities have to keep local government en pointe (towing the financial and judicial lines).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz Norell

    I picked this slim little volume up after seeing reference to it in my incoming news stream. No idea where, actually. But this is something I care deeply about, and I was eager to read what Margaret Sullivan had to say. While (as a recovering journalist and avid defender of journalism) I feel like I knew most of the facts/trends Sullivan reports already, the interpretation of those facts was what I came here hoping to find, and Sullivan delivered in spades. I SO appreciated her clear-minded take I picked this slim little volume up after seeing reference to it in my incoming news stream. No idea where, actually. But this is something I care deeply about, and I was eager to read what Margaret Sullivan had to say. While (as a recovering journalist and avid defender of journalism) I feel like I knew most of the facts/trends Sullivan reports already, the interpretation of those facts was what I came here hoping to find, and Sullivan delivered in spades. I SO appreciated her clear-minded take on why we should care. As well, I appreciated some of the models for overcoming these issues she shared. This was a quick read that I found exceedingly valuable. Please also watch Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act segment, which makes the stakes of this development all the more lucid.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brooks Johnson

    Hard to give an objective review because I've been inside this world for so many years and so none of this was groundbreaking information. But anyone who cares about their community and how accurate information is best spread - you know it ain't Nextdoor - should read this quick study on the importance of people asking questions on your behalf and getting paid to do so. Hard to give an objective review because I've been inside this world for so many years and so none of this was groundbreaking information. But anyone who cares about their community and how accurate information is best spread - you know it ain't Nextdoor - should read this quick study on the importance of people asking questions on your behalf and getting paid to do so.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kuang Ting

    本書有一段話我很喜歡:[To those who argue that many of the functions of newspapers are outdated- you can get the weather report and movie times elsewhere and more efficiently- I would point out it’s not just the watchdog journalism that matters. It’s the way a local columnist can express a community’s frustration or triumph, the way the local music critic can review a concert, the deeply reported feature stories, the assessment of a new restaurant, the obituaries, the letters to the editor. The newspaper t 本書有一段話我很喜歡:[To those who argue that many of the functions of newspapers are outdated- you can get the weather report and movie times elsewhere and more efficiently- I would point out it’s not just the watchdog journalism that matters. It’s the way a local columnist can express a community’s frustration or triumph, the way the local music critic can review a concert, the deeply reported feature stories, the assessment of a new restaurant, the obituaries, the letters to the editor. The newspaper ties a region together, helps it make sense of itself, fosters a sense of community, serves as a village square whose boundaries transcend Facebook’s filter bubble.] 這段話優美的詮釋了報紙存在的意義,可惜報紙(或者說新聞業)正在面臨前所未有的生存挑戰。本書《Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy》屬於Columbia Global Report書系,本書系為哥倫比亞大學贊助的一項新聞報導出版計畫,從2015年開始至今滿五年,推出超過二十本蠻有質感的報導文學,這本是今年剛出版的作品。 Ghosting the news有很深的含意: 新聞業變得越來越像鬼城,若把新聞業當作一種產業,它就是那種急遽萎縮的夕陽產業,單獨以美國的新聞業而言,從業人員的數量在近10~20年減少了一半以上,甚至高達三分之二(不同的研究和算法得出不同的數據),總之新聞業正面臨前所未有的變革,除了幾間大型新聞機構還勉強撐得過去,中小型的新聞機構基本上都關門大吉了。 一般來說,國際性和國家級的新聞機構因為觀眾基數大,受到的威脅”相對較小”。但對於地方性的新聞業者來說,營收銳減卻非常致命。美國地大物博,以前各地通常都有區域性的小報紙,但是這些地方性的報紙正在急速的消失,這就是本書聚焦的議題。 本書作者Margaret Sullivan是一位資歷豐富的媒體從業人員,目前的身分是《華盛頓郵報》的「媒體」專欄作家,也在哥倫比亞大學新聞學院教書。她被譽為美國最有資格評論新聞業的人選之一,在此之前,她也擔任過《紐約時報》的編輯。她的新聞職涯起始於《水牛城新聞》,這是水牛城最大的報紙,她在這裡工作將近三十年。她待過地方性的媒體,也有國際媒體的歷練,這些經驗賦予她評論「媒體」的敏銳度。她甚至還當過普立茲獎的評審! 本書副標題寫道「美國民主的危機」,怎麼說呢? 新聞是公民社會的第四權,具有監督制衡的作用,它是健全的民主社會不可或缺的一環。新聞是弱勢群體的發聲管道,也是揭露不公不義的有力機制。純粹就政治層面而言,新聞媒體的存在本身就能監督政治人物的一言一行,記者鍥而不捨的窮追猛打,往往能帶給政客們壓力,使他們不敢恣意妄行,否則一旦上了新聞頭版,政治生涯大概就完了。記者是揭露真相的重要功臣,少了新聞報導,大眾就會被各種謊言和假消息蒙在鼓裡了。 請想像一下沒有新聞媒體的世界,多麼黑暗啊! 獲得資訊的管道或許只剩下臉書,道聽途說,沒有任何值得信賴的消息來源,政府官員也能為所欲為,反正沒人會來揭穿…這種情境很顯然會導致民主倒退,但不幸的是這正是世界各地的新聞進行式,Newspapers become headlines of newspapers. 新聞業自己成了新聞的頭條,因為隨著眾多報紙熄燈,最後一期的頭版就是他們向讀者告別的訃聞,從此走入歷史。 本書開頭,作者Margaret回憶她職業生涯的起點,當她從新聞學院畢業,獲得家鄉主要報紙《水牛城新聞》的實習機會,她本來以為自己只會待個幾年,接著就搬到大城市追逐更光鮮亮麗的機會。沒想到她一待就是三十年,她在這個地方報紙從小記者開始做起,將所有職務幾乎都做過一輪,在此成長,在此成家,她一步步升遷並當上了第一位女性總編輯。總編輯任內,她努力提升性別和種族多樣性,擴大記者群的數量,身為領導者及過來人,她理解優質的新聞報導需要時間、金錢、耐性,甚至還需要運氣和勇氣。她為了真相的追求也是不遺餘力,盡心盡力,帶領此地方性報紙獲得不少的肯定。 Margaret透過自身的回憶,感嘆報紙的黃金年代已一去不返。地方報紙對於當地社群的影響力,其實比國際性媒體深刻多了。舉個例子,當《紐約時報》報導非洲的疾病和饑荒,如何影響歐洲的難民危機。這種新聞對於一個美國中西部的小鎮來說,坦白說並沒有切身的關聯性。撇開什麼地球村啦、人類共同體…之類的宏大命題,其實每個地方(村落、鄉鎮、小城…等等)都是獨立的社群,地方報紙就是一個「鄉村廣場」(village square),提供此聚落裡的人一個共同交流的平台。 以台灣當比喻,我每次回南部開電視轉到七八十台,都會有一些台語新聞,賣藥兼唱卡拉OK;如果你開車到外縣市旅遊,收聽廣播時,一定都會轉到地方電台,例如:客語電台、原住民電台…等等。這種地方氣息濃厚的媒體討論的話題,都是跟當地息息相關的議題。人類一輩子都在追求歸屬感,在社群情感層面也是如此。地方報紙(和媒體)凝聚了社群意識,匯聚了一個社群的各種聲音,刊登的新聞,就是發生在你我身邊的故事,這種親密特質使得地方報紙成為居民公共生活的重要組成,如上所述,它們也有約束地方政府的力量。 直到2000年網路逐漸普及,紙本印刷的報紙常常是人們獲取資訊的主要渠道,報紙擁有廣大的訂閱戶,這是報紙的主要收入之一。另外,報紙也是廣告商投放廣告的主要管道,商家仰賴報紙才能觸及消費者。這種獨佔性使得報紙享有蠻高的利潤,30%以上的利潤率是常態,分類廣告也是報紙的重要收入來源。 傳統報紙的商業模式在進入數位時代後經歷了劇烈的動盪,網路上免費新聞唾手可得,使報紙的訂閱人數大幅下降;廣告的重心也移到網路,Craiglist、eBay、亞馬遜…等網站顛覆了大眾的消費習慣,大家已經習慣用網路搜尋和購物,報紙的廣告利潤也就乾涸了。關於新聞業如何因應數位化轉型,有一本書叫《新聞不死,只是很喘》,探討的就是此議題。基本上,國內外的新聞媒體都還在苦苦掙扎,嘗試各種新型態的實驗,目前數位時代的媒體還沒找到能穩定獲利的商業模式,訂閱和廣告兩大傳統收入都不能與往日相提並論了。 Margaret帶著一份憂慮的心情調查了美國地方報紙的衰亡,她的觀察令人灰心,這種狀況預計會持續惡化,美國有越來越多的鄉鎮市即將變成「新聞沙漠」,完全沒有地方報紙,彷彿另類的黑暗中心。當然,陰霾中總會有幾道曙光,她分享了幾個令人欣慰的故事,至少能喚醒一點希望。例如:有NGO以志工服務的形式號召當地人投身新聞報導,有志之士貢獻時間和精力,填補了一些新聞的缺口。 本書也爬梳了一些相關的學術文獻,探討(地方)新聞的發展前景。舉個例子,目前新聞業有一個令人憂心的現象,任何嘗試似乎都無法永續經營,為了解決資金的缺口,有些報紙被億萬富豪收購,或是賣給私募基金。對有錢人來說,收購媒體往往都是出於金錢的算計,榨乾殘餘價值後就撤資。新聞機構成為資本市場的投資標的,美國許多老牌的地方報紙在引進這種資金後,反而加速凋零,因為經營者才不管什麼新聞正義呢,第四權等於未來的變現能力,有錢才有權… 有鑑於此,媒體研究人員開始提出各種倡議,希望能重新喚醒新聞的活力。有一些倡議在過往是難以想像的,但在今日的時空背景之下,似乎能提供另一條道路。例如:由政府撥款支持新聞自由,既然新聞是公民社會的重要環節,有人認為由公部門補貼地方報紙,或許就能填補資源的短缺,重燃生機。當然這需要妥善的規劃,才不會讓新聞成了政府的附庸。本書介紹了幾種值得思考的模式,或許它們就是未來敘事能量的來源。 如果你關心新聞自由,或者純粹對新聞業的現況感興趣,這本書能帶你一窺正在進行中的結構性轉型。有機會的話,還是以行動去支持自己喜愛的報章雜誌吧,畢竟當資訊變得過於廉價,我們獲得的也只是毫無意義的雜訊罷了。

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Derrick Fuller

    Super interesting topic. Could have been an article instead of a book. (Irony?)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carol Tilley

    Brief, essential. Why quality local newspapers matter, how were losing them, and what the future might hold.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Silliman

    This is a solid recap of the death of newspaper journalism in America, with a some additional reporting. It doesn't offer much in the way of new analysis on the causes, doesn't make much of an argument about the crisis in democracy of the subtitle, and doesn't go very far in exploring the possible alternative business models. I was a bit let down. This is a solid recap of the death of newspaper journalism in America, with a some additional reporting. It doesn't offer much in the way of new analysis on the causes, doesn't make much of an argument about the crisis in democracy of the subtitle, and doesn't go very far in exploring the possible alternative business models. I was a bit let down.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    While the death of newspapers is no longer news, the social impact of their loss has not been replaced by online news sources (bogus and reliable) or even by local TV and radio stations. Few papers anymore can afford multiple investigations taking weeks or months of research and vetting by fact-checkers, and few papers can now afford lawyers to handle the potential lawsuits brought by unhappy subjects of investigative journalism. While a few newspapers have been able sustain themselves—such as T While the death of newspapers is no longer news, the social impact of their loss has not been replaced by online news sources (bogus and reliable) or even by local TV and radio stations. Few papers anymore can afford multiple investigations taking weeks or months of research and vetting by fact-checkers, and few papers can now afford lawyers to handle the potential lawsuits brought by unhappy subjects of investigative journalism. While a few newspapers have been able sustain themselves—such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times—the achievement has come by positioning themselves as nation or even international newspapers, not local papers reporting local millage issues. Ghosting the News is an account by veteran reporter and editor Margaret Sullivan on what is happening at the civic level as a result of more and larger “news deserts”—places without access to local, legitimate news: “[D]ay-in-and-day-out local reporting . . . makes secretive town officials unhappy because of what they can’t get away with, and lets local taxpayers know how their money is being spent.” A study conducted in 2019 by PEN America (an organization devoted to literature and human rights) found that “As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local new, citizens are less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” Furthermore, Sullivan reports, “Studies in Japan and Switzerland have found much the same dynamic: In places where news breaks down, so does citizenship; where newspaper market share increases, so does political accountability.” In short, a lack of reliable news sources results in “less civic engagement, more political polarization, more potential for government corruption.” So, what is to be done? Sullivan offers examples of what is currently working, and what might be necessary to ensure that issues of local importance are reported and made widely available. The first example, and hardest to find, requires being bought by a benevolent billionaire, as happened to the LA Times and Washington Post, whose owners to date have kept their hands off editorial decisions. The other, more tenuous example is the non-profit route, in which papers change from a for-profit format (because the advertiser revenues are no longer there) supported by subscribers and deep-pocket donors. The third possibility, which among American journalists is looked upon with deep skepticism, is government subsidy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda Negro

    This book made me heartsick. It is a chronicle of the life I’ve led. I remember the way a it feels to be part of bustling newsrooms telling stories, reporting the news and connecting with the people in the communities I’ve lived. It becomes personal. I watched it start to spiral the drain. I was part of an effort in the 90s — Courier Online —people who got the power of digital. It built the first digital community in Evansville. Even though our chain of newspapers,scattered across the country, had This book made me heartsick. It is a chronicle of the life I’ve led. I remember the way a it feels to be part of bustling newsrooms telling stories, reporting the news and connecting with the people in the communities I’ve lived. It becomes personal. I watched it start to spiral the drain. I was part of an effort in the 90s — Courier Online —people who got the power of digital. It built the first digital community in Evansville. Even though our chain of newspapers,scattered across the country, had the means to build a National connection shortsighted leaders who couldn’t fathom a day when they’d had to give up 30% profits eschewed those national connections. One editor strongly suggested that a new reporter take down a video of him on a walk through of his new apartment in town. Fortunately the underling editor ignored the edict. This was right before You Tube burst on the scene. Missed opportunity to build on a new tool. They virtually let someone else take obituaries, classified advertising and the habit building parts of the experience- comics, bridge columns. Today our local paper values the connection of restaurant reviews but it was only after clicks proved their popularity. Meanwhile leaders ignored their own data. When they downsized sections they held onto a Sport Front, the least read section of the publication burying local features which readers had judged matched their needs much more. I rant for missed opportunities, for missed connections and for the failure of this once male-driven chain that misunderstood the biggest portion audience chasing quick Money making schemes and underfunding the news coverage. I cheer for those who still fight the battle while corporate raiders suck out the remaining dollars and hope. I have less hope than author Margaret Sullivan. But I cling to a glimmer that light may return after the end of a long darkness.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Talk about a timely topic. This enlightening tome should be required reading for anyone who is concerned about the future of journalism and our democracy. Sullivan (who was editor of The Buffalo News when I was a reporter at the publication) makes a compelling case that "real news" is as much a problem as "fake news." She issues a dire warning about how the decline of daily newspapers jeopardizes efforts to hold governments accountable. Communities that suffer from "news poverty" face the risk o Talk about a timely topic. This enlightening tome should be required reading for anyone who is concerned about the future of journalism and our democracy. Sullivan (who was editor of The Buffalo News when I was a reporter at the publication) makes a compelling case that "real news" is as much a problem as "fake news." She issues a dire warning about how the decline of daily newspapers jeopardizes efforts to hold governments accountable. Communities that suffer from "news poverty" face the risk of more government corruption, higher taxes, a more divided electoral base and a less-informed populace. Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post, weaves in lively anecdotes that reinforce her arguments. She also explores possible solutions to the decline of local news ecosystems, including the rise of numerous nonprofit newsrooms. "Ghosting the News" is an important book that graphically illustrates why we all should concerned about the demise of daily newspapers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roni Porfert

    Interesting that at least one reviewer seemed to feel that journalists brought this on themselves, and that they should be able to recover and work with modern technology. Having been in the field (and gotten out), I can say that the front-line reporters and editors had no say in laying people off, in closing newsrooms, in offering buyouts, in moving copy desks to "regional hubs", in moving printing to other cities and states, in selling buildings, in cutting customer service staff and moving th Interesting that at least one reviewer seemed to feel that journalists brought this on themselves, and that they should be able to recover and work with modern technology. Having been in the field (and gotten out), I can say that the front-line reporters and editors had no say in laying people off, in closing newsrooms, in offering buyouts, in moving copy desks to "regional hubs", in moving printing to other cities and states, in selling buildings, in cutting customer service staff and moving that to call centers far, far away, and ... need I go on? The decisions were made by corporate accountants and shareholders, and many newspapers were acquired by hedge funds who wanted costs cut and fast, and saw newsrooms as cost centers only. There IS a certain hubris among reporters at big-city papers, I will grant that. Some feel responsible for setting a tone or a national agenda. Many feel the urge to push political slant that used to be confined to editorial pages. But in no way did local reporters and page designers and editors "self inflict" this bloodletting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trista

    While I didn’t think this book was incredibly well written or laid out, I did appreciate learning about the trends and void being left by the demise of local newspapers. I was one of those people who thought you can get what you need from the internet, but now I see there is a real loss when investigative journalism is not prioritized and able to be performed. It is one of the best checks & balances on power, and left unchecked, we risk corruption and the taking away of liberties and freedoms wi While I didn’t think this book was incredibly well written or laid out, I did appreciate learning about the trends and void being left by the demise of local newspapers. I was one of those people who thought you can get what you need from the internet, but now I see there is a real loss when investigative journalism is not prioritized and able to be performed. It is one of the best checks & balances on power, and left unchecked, we risk corruption and the taking away of liberties and freedoms without ever knowing about it. Because the internet came of age where information is given away for free, many have a hard time biting the bullet to pay for information, even when you are getting high quality information and not unsubstantiated gossip. I’m going to support my local paper and sign up right now.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Larsen

    Margaret Sullivan is our nation’s premier media critic, and this book is an essential explainer regarding the crisis in local news reporting and how it influences our struggling democracy. I’d love to read a full-length discussion of this topic, but for now, this will do. Should be required reading for media literacy teachers.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melody Riggs

    A short, concise read about why local journalism still matters. Although many small papers are folding, some cities and towns are finding new ways to get information to people. Sullivan makes a great argument for what local papers and journalists can do that larger papers cannot.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Outstanding argument. Quick and easy read, with a cogent and compelling argument about the perils of local journalism to democracy and civic engagement.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian Schrader

    A great look into the realities of the declining state of local newspapers around the world. Local news is dying and taking our democracy with it. Sullivan dives into why and how the decline of local news has persisted this long and how papers have struggled to recover from the damage dealt by both internet platforms and the 2008 recession. Thankfully she also provides a number of solutions that will hopefully inform our debate going forward.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob Varettoni

    Reading this is particularly poignant in the days following Pete Hamill's death and the shuttering of the Daily News' New York City newsroom. A long intro lays out an ambitious premise for what is ultimately a short book. Perhaps there's simply not that much more to say. I admire Margaret Sullivan very much, and there's good reason to give this read 5 stars -- and, yet, for all the fawning admiration of the talent of trained journalists and the god-like qualities ascribed to Washington Post edito Reading this is particularly poignant in the days following Pete Hamill's death and the shuttering of the Daily News' New York City newsroom. A long intro lays out an ambitious premise for what is ultimately a short book. Perhaps there's simply not that much more to say. I admire Margaret Sullivan very much, and there's good reason to give this read 5 stars -- and, yet, for all the fawning admiration of the talent of trained journalists and the god-like qualities ascribed to Washington Post editor Marty Baron, there's still a germ of a doubt in my mind about how we got to this place and how we can recover. For one thing, I believe smart people will adapt to the changes caused by technology that led to many self-inflicted problems in business of journalism. For another thing, a recent story in the Post (precipitated by an email to Ms. Sullivan, or so I have read) devoted a good deal of the paper's resources to investigating a DC-area Halloween party several years ago where a private citizen wore an ill-considered costume (for which she expressed regret) and was shamed and fired from her job as a result of the Post's coverage. If what remains of hallowed journalism is so precious, it should not have been squandered like that... by people who should have known better.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Xanthe

    Hard to read, a bit like a horror story where the monsters are all digital advertising, venture capital, and the dawn of the internet. I picked this up because I want to understand more about how local newspapers have declined and what to do about it. The first part Sullivan ably explains, with plenty of details from the rise and fall of local newspapers around the country. As a journalist herself, she can talk about the mechanics of reporting, but also the financial underpinnings of the industr Hard to read, a bit like a horror story where the monsters are all digital advertising, venture capital, and the dawn of the internet. I picked this up because I want to understand more about how local newspapers have declined and what to do about it. The first part Sullivan ably explains, with plenty of details from the rise and fall of local newspapers around the country. As a journalist herself, she can talk about the mechanics of reporting, but also the financial underpinnings of the industry. It's sad and upsetting to read the examples of all the newspapers that have been gutted or disappeared around the country, and it's clear that this is intertwined with our current crisis of disinformation. As for what to do about it? That's the open question. Subscribe to your local newspaper. Read it. Support local journalists. And then? More money, but from where? No one has a simple solution, but making more people aware of the value of their local news is the best start we can make. I subscribe to my local newspaper digitally and am considering further support of journalism that I read and value, hoping that this is only part of a change in our values that leads to the resurgence of local news.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

    short, straightforward recap of the causes (looking at you, internet), effects (less sense of community, less accountability for government), and potential remedies (no silver bullet -- some civic-minded billionaires, some big papers turning national in their focus and surviving on digital subscriptions, some scrappy foundation-funded teams.......) of demise of local newspapers and local news coverage along with them. as one of the (apparently) few remaining print edition readers, I hope these so short, straightforward recap of the causes (looking at you, internet), effects (less sense of community, less accountability for government), and potential remedies (no silver bullet -- some civic-minded billionaires, some big papers turning national in their focus and surviving on digital subscriptions, some scrappy foundation-funded teams.......) of demise of local newspapers and local news coverage along with them. as one of the (apparently) few remaining print edition readers, I hope these solutions work to at least a decent extent, but who knows? People curating their own news on their phones and getting it at no marginal cost is a tough model to outlast given that you have to pay the investigative journalists who create in-depth local coverage. Author writes about these issues quite a bit in her media column in WaPo, so i was certainly familiar with her take on it, and there are parts of the book that drag a little as she tours the country getting one newspaper person after another to confirm her sense that it's tough out there. but all in all a quick and well-organized read about important trend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    April Helms

    The former editor of The Buffalo News and current columnist for The Washington Post packs a good deal in 95 pages, plus notes. I've read quite a few books on the depressing struggles newspapers have had to endure for the past 20 years, but the focus on this one is on the loss to the communities and the consequences to the cities that face diminishing or even no news coverage. Decreased democracy and information. Greater corruption. Higher community costs, and not just with the intangible loss of The former editor of The Buffalo News and current columnist for The Washington Post packs a good deal in 95 pages, plus notes. I've read quite a few books on the depressing struggles newspapers have had to endure for the past 20 years, but the focus on this one is on the loss to the communities and the consequences to the cities that face diminishing or even no news coverage. Decreased democracy and information. Greater corruption. Higher community costs, and not just with the intangible loss of a watchdog over government and business but tangible hits to the wallet. Sullivan gives examples of the harm done, and where the local newspaper prevented greater damage. She also goes into the alternatives that are springing up, outlining the successes and the drawbacks. This is not a positive read; Sullivan paints a bleak, if honest, picture of the future of newspapers and strong local coverage. A strong point is the need to move thought away of thinking of the newspaper as a product, and thinking of it as a public service, and considering options such as government subsidies to keep the industry alive. Anyone who cares about the future of local news should read this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter O'Kelly

    Some reviews to consider: • https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/a... • https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... • https://www.niemanlab.org/2020/07/mar... • https://www.cjr.org/business_of_news/... • https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... Note that the book is brief -- the Kindle edition is 83 pages. It's part of a series -- quoting from the book: "Columbia Global Reports is a publishing imprint from Columbia University that commissions authors to do original onsite reporting around the globe on Some reviews to consider: • https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/a... • https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... • https://www.niemanlab.org/2020/07/mar... • https://www.cjr.org/business_of_news/... • https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... Note that the book is brief -- the Kindle edition is 83 pages. It's part of a series -- quoting from the book: "Columbia Global Reports is a publishing imprint from Columbia University that commissions authors to do original onsite reporting around the globe on a wide range of issues. The resulting novella-length books offer new ways to look at and understand the world that can be read in a few hours. Most readers are curious and busy. Our books are for them. "

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Carlson

    Former editor for the NY Times and Buffalo News, Media columnist for the Washington Post Margaret Sullivan writes how democracy is being affected by the declining presence of local news; most notably with the disappearance of newspapers in Ghosting the News; Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy (pp 105). This slim, 5 by 7 book lays bare how local dailies (newspapers) no longer exist in many communities therefore creating a void of accountability. It's a sad read for those of us Former editor for the NY Times and Buffalo News, Media columnist for the Washington Post Margaret Sullivan writes how democracy is being affected by the declining presence of local news; most notably with the disappearance of newspapers in Ghosting the News; Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy (pp 105). This slim, 5 by 7 book lays bare how local dailies (newspapers) no longer exist in many communities therefore creating a void of accountability. It's a sad read for those of us who grew up delivering them as a kid and loving them as an adult. The opening story confirms why they are critical to our way of living. My late Dad was a newspaper editor who loved telling stories of people he didn't know. He wouldn't know what to say about this if he was alive today. What is even more depressing is how Google and Facebook constitute a news source for many people. Let's face it digital isn't the same as holding a newspaper in your hands. I know I am in the minority but I will always buy newspapers as long as I can because I grew up having ink on my hands.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nayana Renukumar

    This book is not mindblowing but it does its job, documenting the death of local news and signal the threat it poses to democracy everywhere. It's a desperate plea to action. Although the book does not cover this in great detail, it helped me understand the role that credible local news papers played in nation building in the US, creating an informed citizenry, creating a community and robust local democracy. In her words, local news papers are the "village squares that transcend the filter bubb This book is not mindblowing but it does its job, documenting the death of local news and signal the threat it poses to democracy everywhere. It's a desperate plea to action. Although the book does not cover this in great detail, it helped me understand the role that credible local news papers played in nation building in the US, creating an informed citizenry, creating a community and robust local democracy. In her words, local news papers are the "village squares that transcend the filter bubble of Facebook". Losing them means losing a critical way for communities to get trustworthy news, holding local government accountable and feel connected to each other. She touches upon real financial costs from loss of newspapers (rise in Municipal borrowing costs as less news papers mean less accountability), social costs (local art, culture, business) and political costs (fake news, political polarization). The book is scant on global coverage of the issue and on what we as everyday users can do. But a lot of that is intuitive. This book is a great starting point and thought provoking.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    The author discusses the crisis in our society that stems from the loss of local news in communities around the country, as well as across the world. It seems like nobody is happy with this outcome, but there are just too few solutions being developed. The author seems to blame tech companies for competing in the advertising market while admitting that newspapers regularly lost money as a business practice. It seems like the crisis in journalism could be seen for a while and too few were prepared The author discusses the crisis in our society that stems from the loss of local news in communities around the country, as well as across the world. It seems like nobody is happy with this outcome, but there are just too few solutions being developed. The author seems to blame tech companies for competing in the advertising market while admitting that newspapers regularly lost money as a business practice. It seems like the crisis in journalism could be seen for a while and too few were prepared for it. While there are discussions of new business models like non-profits, the author does not make any discussion of patronage services or platforms like Substack and Medium, where people have been finding a new home for paid writing that doesn't require advertising. The book is very short, making it quick to read. Going into more details could make this book more interesting, but it nevertheless is a good read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauryn

    Democracy suffers when local news outlets disappear. Margaret Sullivan makes an excellent case for local newspapers and puts into perspective the role of local media in community, politics, public health, and quality watchdog reporting. I majored in journalism for both my Bachelor's and Master's, but had the unfortunate graduation year of 2015, a time during which (Sullivan quantifies) as many as 2,000 newspapers began to shut their doors, consolidate, or subject themselves to private equity firm Democracy suffers when local news outlets disappear. Margaret Sullivan makes an excellent case for local newspapers and puts into perspective the role of local media in community, politics, public health, and quality watchdog reporting. I majored in journalism for both my Bachelor's and Master's, but had the unfortunate graduation year of 2015, a time during which (Sullivan quantifies) as many as 2,000 newspapers began to shut their doors, consolidate, or subject themselves to private equity firms. I have a special place and collection of life's work dedicated toward local news, so I found this topic exceptionally poignant. This book explains the conjunction of factors that caused a sharp decline in paid journalists, local news publications, and quality journalism. I learned so much from this quick read. I found myself pausing, taking notes, researching named publications, and positing models on what I could promote the importance of local journalism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Audie

    I don't know that this really brings anything particularly new to the table, and it felt quite rushed and thrown together in the wake of COVID-19. Sullivan isn't wrong - we need local news publications - but I don't know that continually listing countless examples of failed publications is going to change things. In the end, she argues that more people need to become actively involved in finding solutions to ensure the future of local publications - but not once does she offer any of her own. Sh I don't know that this really brings anything particularly new to the table, and it felt quite rushed and thrown together in the wake of COVID-19. Sullivan isn't wrong - we need local news publications - but I don't know that continually listing countless examples of failed publications is going to change things. In the end, she argues that more people need to become actively involved in finding solutions to ensure the future of local publications - but not once does she offer any of her own. She starts off with a great quote that isn't even hers - it's from a PEN America study - "With the loss of local news, citizens are less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office." - but even so, you hope this will set the tone for the rest of the book. It does not. Ultimately this is just an unnecessarily long essay.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    This book title popped up on my library app as a newly added digital book and I'm so glad I decided to check it out. It's a fairly short book and an easy read. Having a background in the industry, I have followed the changes to true journalism for a few decades now. What I found most interesting about this book is how the author highlights the demise of newspapers and the causes. So many people talk about "real" journalism no longer existing and really, we're all to blame as other forms of media This book title popped up on my library app as a newly added digital book and I'm so glad I decided to check it out. It's a fairly short book and an easy read. Having a background in the industry, I have followed the changes to true journalism for a few decades now. What I found most interesting about this book is how the author highlights the demise of newspapers and the causes. So many people talk about "real" journalism no longer existing and really, we're all to blame as other forms of media and information has taken our attention away from staying informed on what is happening in our own communities. I think this sentence sums up a lot of it for me: "The newspaper ties a region together, helps it make sense of itself, fosters a sense of community, serves as a village square whose boundaries transcend Facebook's filter bubble." I highly recommend this book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jake Harris

    Damning and damn terrifying. Love to read all about the decline of my industry! Most of the stuff here I already knew or (sadly) witnessed firsthand. But as for sounding the alarm bells to everyone else, it’s an incredibly important read. I was especially drawn to this bit about how TV news needs to start adapting before it, too, goes the way of the local newspaper: “A 2018 Knight Foundation study called for local TV stations to improve their journalism: ‘Drop the obsession with crime, carnage and Damning and damn terrifying. Love to read all about the decline of my industry! Most of the stuff here I already knew or (sadly) witnessed firsthand. But as for sounding the alarm bells to everyone else, it’s an incredibly important read. I was especially drawn to this bit about how TV news needs to start adapting before it, too, goes the way of the local newspaper: “A 2018 Knight Foundation study called for local TV stations to improve their journalism: ‘Drop the obsession with crime, carnage and mayhem. And focus on ways to connect with local communities through a focus on issues such as education, the economy and transportation.’...If local revenue can be harnessed for good, TV can be a part of the answer. But it’s unclear that it will be.” Also, 1000% fuck Gannett and GateHouse until the end of time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miri

    Depressing but necessary book. I really appreciated it. It articulated something I’ve wanted to articulate for a while, as someone who started her journalism career in local news. Wished there was more solutions-based commentary since the problem is so clear and I imagine the readers of this book, like me, are well aware of the news deserts and dying industry. Nonetheless I am glad I read this. Loved this line, it reminded me of my early days at the OC Register: “I could hear the familiar music Depressing but necessary book. I really appreciated it. It articulated something I’ve wanted to articulate for a while, as someone who started her journalism career in local news. Wished there was more solutions-based commentary since the problem is so clear and I imagine the readers of this book, like me, are well aware of the news deserts and dying industry. Nonetheless I am glad I read this. Loved this line, it reminded me of my early days at the OC Register: “I could hear the familiar music of a typical newsroom: a blend of cynicism that cannot disguise a shared sense of mission, mixed with the rush of deadlines and worry about getting something wrong or otherwise missing a big story. Newsrooms run on plentiful caffeine, high anxiety and sick jokes.”

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