Image by Seth Dewey
Image by Seth Dewey

At Courier Newsroom, we’re building local reporting infrastructure in states across the U.S. to help people understand and affect the issues impacting their lives.

Almost daily, national outlets run headlines on the state of a divided America, with fears of misinformation, echo chambers, and no common ground in what we read, hear, and share.

Adults in the U.S. are checking out instead of staying informed because of the overwhelming nature of news in 2019.

But as much as we hear about the symptoms of our divided reality, we rarely hear about the foundational issue that’s gotten us here: the absence of local reporting.  

Earlier this year, executive editor of the New York Times Dean Baquet predicted that most local newspapers in America will die in the next five years. He went on to call the death of local news “the greatest crisis in American journalism” — a crisis that is already well underway.

In the last decade and a half, nearly one in five newspapers have disappeared—a total of 1,800 newspapers nationwide. Countless other newsrooms have become ghost towns — under-resourced, under-staffed papers unable to adequately cover the stories and issues that national outlets do not address.

With the dominance of giant tech companies and social media platforms as gatekeepers of what people see, misinformation can now rip through the digital landscape with a provocative headline and a few ad dollars. Yet millions of Americans are already living without dedicated reporting to shine a light on what is happening in their own communities and to keep their local institutions in check.

Having fewer shared sets of facts also erodes trust in our democracy and obscures the pathways for people to participate in it.

I grew up in a small town in northern California— the state that’s lost the most daily newspapers in the country in the last 15 years. Throughout middle and high school, my history teacher began every class by reading out headlines from the Sacramento Bee. The newspaper served as the backbone to my understanding of democracy and community, and it forever linked the two.

When local journalism dies, we no longer read shared headlines and, in turn, we understand one another less. Having fewer shared sets of facts also erodes trust in our democracy and obscures the pathways for people to participate in it.

This is why we are launching Courier Newsroom, a progressive media company that’s investing in local journalism across the country, and we’re starting by building newsrooms in Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin, and three other states, as well as a national platform, COURIER. Journalists will surface stories that highlight the effects of federal policies at the local level, while elevating the policy decisions, ideas, and actions happening locally to a national audience. We need to grow sustainable infrastructure to support local reporting that holds a mirror to our democracy and all of its participants.

The death of local news isn’t just a crisis in American journalism: If local news disappears, so does our democracy.

Courier Newsroom is not here to enter a war of who’s right, or who should win. Our mission is about giving people something we can all share: the facts that bind our communities together.

Because when local journalism thrives, the truth is what we have in common.