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Tackling 'news deserts' in the United States

Words by Smiley Team

Since 2005, nearly a quarter of all newspapers in the United States have shut down. Along with that, the number of reporters per 100,000 people has shrunk by more than 62%. Reporters have a lot more work and are spread a lot thinner, leaving gaps in coverage called “news deserts.”

News deserts are places that have little to no local coverage and as a result, miss the protection that journalists and news organizations can offer. As news organizations declined, government spending and waste has grown by nearly 76% since 2004. In sense of actual dollars, there used to be three journalists per 100 million dollars spent – and now there’s just one. 

“Between places switching to online only and those that are merging, this is a really sharp increase,” Penny Abernathy, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media told Poynter, “and not surprising either.”

This isn’t all doom and gloom though, and there are organizations looking to change things, like the nonprofit Report for America

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Report for America is an initiative founded by The Groundtruth Project, aimed at getting more journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. 

“In its absence, the vacuum left behind becomes filled by misinformation that leads to mistrust and polarization," says Report for America's marketing and public relations manager, Sam Kille. “By ensuring communities have trusted local news, communities remain informed, government officials are held accountable, and residents are better able to resolve the issues that impact their daily lives.”

Reduced inequalities

Another goal of Report for America is to establish a more representative population of journalists in what has been a largely white male-dominated industry for much of its history. 

“It's important for journalists to reflect the communities they cover, which helps build trust and understanding,” says Kille. “Far too many newsrooms lack this diversity and we hope to change that.”

In summer 2022, Report for America will be fielding 325 “reporting corps members” into 220 newsrooms around the United States but that’s still short of their goal.

“We hope to grow the corps to 1,000 to help eliminate the growing number of local news deserts across the country,” adds Kille.

The new Report for America corps members will be announced in April 2022 and will begin their work in early June.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: Donate to the Groundtruth Project, whichs aims to represent communities all over the country. 

GET INVOLVED: Find out how else you can support the Report for America initiative.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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