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Asociación Técnica de Diarios Latinoamericanos
Boletín Semanal enero 30, 2020

Los lectores de todo el país nos contaron cómo se vieron afectados por el declive de las noticias locales: "Nuestra comunidad no se conoce a sí misma".

Fuente: The Reader Center https://www.nytimes.com/section/reader-center

City Council and school board meetings. Small-town sports and politics. Local government corruption.

These are a handful of the news and issues that go unreported when small newspapers close or are gutted by layoffs. Over the past 15 years, more than one in five papers in the United States has shuttered, and the number of journalists working for newspapers has been cut in half, according to research by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism. That has led to the rise of hollowed-out “ghost papers” and communities across the country without any local paper.

We asked readers living in communities with newspapers that were shut down or gutted to tell us how they had been affected. Here is a selection of their responses, which have been lightly edited.

Living without a local paper

The weekly Mount Dora Topic, in Florida, folded in 2006 after decades of ad competition with dailies north and south of the 14,000-population town. Now those dailies are cutting back, and coverage of Mount Dora is scarce.

After years without a strong local voice, our community does not know itself and has no idea of important local issues or how the area is changing and challenged by growth and the impact of climate change. We are a nameless and faceless town defined only by neighborhoods.

A few local blogs pick up commercial events that are relayed on Facebook, but aside from that, we only hear of murders and fires and hot-button controversies — the stuff of TV news.

— David Cohea, Mount Dora, Fla.

Local stories about mayoral races, city and county council races, commissions, library activities and school board decisions are all missing since our local weekly newspaper, The Issaquah Press, went dark. I miss the photos, the letters to the editor, the obituaries and the wonderful tone of the paper that we got every week for 38 years, until it stopped publication in February 2017 after 117 years.

— Margaret Buckwitz, Issaquah, Wash.

The Tri-Town News in Sidney, N.Y., ended publication a year ago. There is no way to reliably learn about decisions of local governments, or even about the issues being raised. School news, religious news and upcoming and recent events are all lost. Even local advertisements that were helpful in planning for home improvements and gift-giving, not to mention posting local jobs, are gone.

The view from within

I’m the editor, publisher, reporter and office manager for probably one of California’s smallest newspapers: The Ferndale Enterprise.

I’m on the cliff, about ready to close, after doing this for more than two decades. We’ve won a boatload of state and national awards, but I, too, am spitting into the wind. We’ve been through costly First Amendment battles, been told we were fake news long before you-know-who started muttering those two words.

We’re currently cleaning toilets at two Airbnbs at our newspaper office to keep the presses printing. If we decide to shut the doors after 141 years, it’ll take us a year to wind down, we figure. We have to run out people’s subscriptions: can’t afford to give refunds!

— Caroline Titus, Ferndale, Calif.

I was the editor and publisher of The Millbrook Independent, which closed its print operation after an eight-year run. We started two weeks after the preceding paper closed, taking local news to a higher plane. We found circulation shrinking and tried migrating to the web, which worked for us but not for readers who didn’t regularly go to our web pages.

School boards, town and village boards, county news, local news — it all disappeared. We were a check on governments, on endless environmental and zoning hearings, on budgets that we often published in detail, on misdoings and good doings.

There is now a void. No one took up the slack.

— Stephen Kaye, Millbrook, N.Y.

Struggling to hang on

Our local newspapers, The Republican and the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts, haven’t shut down yet but they might as well have closed. Their staffs have been so dramatically reduced that there is little oversight of local government and local businesses. The checks and balances afforded by this don’t exist, and it is only a matter of time before the potentially corrupt realize they will be able to get away with corruption more easily.

— Stan Freeman, Northampton, Mass.

The Burlington Free Press has not closed, but local issue coverage has been reduced to the point of uselessness. City Council meetings are covered when there is a hot topic on the agenda. Even these get short shrift.

It is almost impossible to keep on top of new happenings and to updates to older news. In my opinion, we’re in an era in which the populace makes civic decisions with little or no background information.

— Tom Derenthal, Burlington, Vt.

When a big player takes over

The former headquarters of The Los Angeles Times. Times Community Newspapers, a division of The Los Angeles Times, publishes several local papers, including the Burbank Leader.Credit...Andrew Cullen for The New York Times

A local paper doesn’t have to be truly closed to be closed in effect. Los Angeles is made up of many localities, and a subsidiary of The Los Angeles Times has taken over several local papers in recent years. It owns the Burbank Leader, where only a few reporters cover some issues in a twice-weekly paper. The “grammar” column and large photos dominate it.

If you truly want to know what is going on, you need to attend every commission meeting and council meeting in person, and no one has time for that.

— Julie D’Angelo, Burbank, Calif.

I live in Denver. The Rocky Mountain News closed 10 years ago, and The Denver Post is useless and run by a money company. It is filled with ads, not local news.

The Colorado Sun, an online publication, arose from the ashes of The Denver Post’s decline. This is where I now find my local news. They show up for local and state politics and attempt to educate citizens on what our public officials are up to. The reporting is good, insightful and widespread. Before The Colorado Sun emerged, there was almost no coverage of local and state politics by The Denver Post.

— Sarabeth Bjorndahl, Denver

Our local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, was bought by the owner of The Los Angeles Times. It has been a mixed blessing: National and state news has improved, but local coverage has suffered. We regularly have a section of the paper called “California” that is filled with stories from Los Angeles. Most of us here don’t live in Los Angeles for a reason, and don’t care about what is happening there. Fortunately, there have been several online start-ups that are filling the void of local reporting.

The Voice of San Diego and the Times of San Diego, coupled with the online versions of the local TV news, seem to do a pretty good job of covering what is going on in our region. One thing I particularly like is that some of the organizations regularly hold community meetings to discuss what is going on, their coverage and what is of interest to the community. That never happened with traditional news organizations.

— Bruce Higgins, San Diego

The Greensboro News & Record was my local paper. While it hasn’t closed, it is a mere shadow of its former self. It is now owned by a division of Berkshire Hathaway.

It barely covers national or even state news. The obits and church news still get covered well. The sections that used to focus on surrounding counties were eliminated years ago. It is harder to even find a copy in public places like stores. I only buy the Sunday paper these days.

— Sandi Campbell, Randolph County, N.C.

The demise of print

Our town’s weekly, The Concord Journal, increasingly prints handouts and rarely covers anything you might call local news reporting. Many hot issues don’t see print. And now our weekly includes another town, Lincoln, further diminishing its local aspect. I subscribe but finish reading it in about two minutes because there is nothing there.

— Judith Hill, Concord, Mass.

Our paper hasn’t closed yet, but the Pittsburgh Post Gazette began publishing only three days a week in September. I am retired, as is my husband. His day begins with reading the paper — not online, but sitting in his chair and reading every single word. I don’t know if he will ever read it online. And I know many people feel the same way. It will soon be a lost art — reading at leisure, at the kitchen table, talking about local happenings.

— Barb Krause, Pittsburgh

Filling the void

I graduated from high school this year, but for the past four years, I worked on my school’s newspaper staff. Each year, there would be one community incident or another, and our publication would cover it and be one of the main sources (if not the only one) for readers instead of commercial publications because they’ve all closed over time.

For our publication to be a trusted source for community news was a great learning opportunity, but the lack of a local newspaper outside of ours is unfortunate.

— Marianne Nacanaynay, Lynnwood, Wash.

Our local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, hasn’t closed, but it might as well have. There is nothing of value in it, unless you want to read about Boise State football. I worked as a local newspaper reporter for six years, so I know the stories that are missing: government meetings, politics, court stories, cultural events, stories about new businesses and restaurants.

Fortunately, the Idaho Press-Tribune, based in Nampa, a city 20 miles west of Boise, is making an aggressive bid to enter the news vacuum in Boise, so local journalism has improved in the last year or so.

— Penny Beach, Boise, Idaho