How Loud Does the Watchdog Bark? A Reconsideration of Local Journalism, News Non-profits, and Political Corruption

37 Pages Posted: 20 May 2022

See all articles by Nikki Usher

Nikki Usher

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Open Markets Institute, Center for Journalism & Liberty

Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell

Johns Hopkins University; Advanced Academic Programs

Date Written: April 28, 2022

Abstract

Journalism has long been presumed to serve as a check on the powerful, shedding light on wrongdoing; however, as local newspapers reach market failure, extant theory pre- dicts corruption will go unchecked. We operationalize corruption as federal prosecutions for public corruption, defined by the US Department of Jus- tice as crimes involving the abuse of public trust by government by federal, state, and local public officials. We examine changes in the local news media ecosystems: first, whether declines in legacy local newspaper employment and circulation are associated with changes in prosecutions for public corruption; and second, whether efforts to supplement watchdog journalism with non-profit journalism might mitigate associated declines in federal prosecution for public corruption. Our findings suggest nonprofit interventions in failing local commercial news markets may be an important safeguard for keeping public officials accountable.

Keywords: corruption, local journalism, news nonprofits, watchdog journalism, news philanthropy, public service journalism, public accountability

Suggested Citation

Usher, Nikki and Kim-Leffingwell, Sanghoon, How Loud Does the Watchdog Bark? A Reconsideration of Local Journalism, News Non-profits, and Political Corruption (April 28, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4096246 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4096246

Nikki Usher (Contact Author)

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign ( email )

Open Markets Institute, Center for Journalism & Liberty ( email )

1440 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

1717 Massachusetts Ave, NW
WDC 879
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Advanced Academic Programs ( email )

1717 Massachusetts Ave, NW
WDC 879
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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