News & Opinion | May 22, 2019 10:50 am

The Death of Local News Could Arrive Within 5 Years

A NY Times editor predicts “the greatest crisis in American journalism”

A local newspaper
A study found almost one in four newspapers had closed since 2004.

Most local newspapers will cease to exist within five years, according to a prediction by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet.

That bleak assessment (as reported by The Wrap) came as part of a larger discussion Baquet conducted with the International News Media Association on Sunday, where he also touched on digital innovation and his paper’s relationship with President Trump. “The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news,” he said, before admitting, “I don’t know what the answer is. Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire.”

Baquet’s prediction would prove to be prescient if the recent slate of newspaper closings continues. A study last fall from UNC Chapel Hill showed that 1 in 5 local papers had already closed since 2004, and even some surviving publications have been forced to go online only or adopt reduced distribution models, such as printing weekly (or even starting GoFundMe campaigns just to survive).

The loss of local journalism often leads to troublesome consequences; as the Nieman Journalism Lab points out in a recent report, a strong local newspaper indirectly increases voter turnout, reduces corruption, makes cities financially healthier and (surprise!) encourages less uniformly partisan voting habits.