Local Newspapers as Keystone Media: The Increased Importance of Diminished Newspapers for Local Political Information Environments
Pre-publication version of chapter in Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (ed.) 2015 Local Journalism: the decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media (I.B. Tauris, London). Forthcoming
15 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2015
Date Written: 2015
On the basis of a mixed-method study combining survey data, content analysis, and semi-structured interviews done in a strategically chosen case community in Denmark, this paper shows that the local daily newspaper, despite its diminished audience reach and editorial resources, has become an increasingly important node in the circulation of independent and professionally produced news about local affairs as other news organizations have pulled out of the locality and no new providers have emerged. Citizens in the community studied have access to more and more media, but less and less news, most of it originating with a single news organization — the local daily newspaper. The study suggests that local newspapers — reporting across platforms but still sustained by their eroding print business — despite the well-known challenges they face in a changing and increasingly digital media environment, despite their dwindling editorial resources, and despite their diminished reach, may thus ironically become more important for local journalism as our media environment change, because they increasingly are the only organizations doing ongoing on-the-ground reporting on local public affairs. They are not so much mainstream media — for the majority does not rely directly on them for information, and most of what they produce is disseminated no farther than to their own readers — as keystone media in a local information environment, playing a critical role in the production and circulation of information with ecological consequences well beyond their own audience.
Keywords: Local journalism, local media, local news, community studies
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