Final Edition: Saving Local News

Final Edition: Saving Local News

A three-part series from The Colorado Sun examining the state of local news and those working to keep their communities informed even after some long-time newspapers have disappeared.

Part one | Part two | Part three

By some counts, we have lost 2,500 newspapers in the United States — including at least 52 in Colorado — since 2005, leaving what has been described as news deserts where people have little or no access to independent news sources on local issues.

The loss is particularly acute in rural areas, which lack the TV stations, digital startups and others trying to fill the gaps left by the ongoing decline of legacy newspapers. That means voters lack the information they need to make informed choices about their local and state leaders, and powerful institutions are not held accountable by watchdog reporters.

Researchers have found that every dollar spent on local news produces hundreds of dollars in public benefit by exposing corruption and keeping an eye on government spending.

There’s also plenty of evidence that the absence of newspapers, or their digital equivalents, leads to an increase in polarization and a decline in residents’ involvement in civic life.

That’s bad for all who care about democracy.

The Founding Fathers were no great fans of newspapers. Back then, newspapers took partisanship to an entirely different level and were not bashful about launching attacks on politicians, fair, factual or not. But the drafters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights also understood that a free and robust press was a vital pillar in a healthy democracy. It’s why they enshrined freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

Here at the Colorado Sun, we take our public service mission seriously, so we set out to take stock of the challenges facing news outlets in Colorado’s rural communities: What’s been lost, what if anything is taking its place and what we might do about it.

— Larry Ryckman, Editor

Part one

Part two

Part three

Colorado News Mapping Project

Where do Coloradans find their local news and community information, and what do we know about these sources? This map contains credentialed sources of local journalism — including newspapers, TV and radio stations, and digital news sites — and other sources that share or produce civic information — including community groups, organizational pages, and individuals.