Post-newspaper news-gathering

An advertisement in 1896 for The Boston Globe.

An advertisement in 1896 for The Boston Globe.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Local newspapers continue to shrink and disappear (the Trump administration’s recent lowering of its very high tariffs on Canadian newsprint might provide a small reprieve). This has encouraged an increase in costly local corruption as the ranks of reporters rapidly diminish as does local civic engagement; newspapers have long been important parts of the public square, acting as crucial sources of laboriously collected and edited information and as convenors for public discussions of important issues.

With the monopolistic Facebook and Google draining away ad revenue, things probably won’t get better for news on paper, unless the Feds start enforcing antitrust laws for a change.

Otis White, the president of Civic Strategies Inc., writing in, reports on a very well run community – Decatur, Ga., an Atlanta suburb – where local leaders are trying to fill the civics-knowledge gap, albeit imperfectly. The City of Decatur mails out a monthly newsletter called Decatur Focus updating stuff going on in city government. It’s well done but in effect promotes the interests and status of city officials, elected and otherwise. Decatur also has a program called Decatur 101, which seeks to develop informed and involved citizens. And there’s its Citizens Police Academy, which focuses on how the police department enforces laws.

All very nice, but all communities need independent, private-sector news gatherers. Their demise is jeopardizing local democracy. To read Mr. White’s piece, please hit this link.