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A paper box in Vindicator Square in Youngstown, Ohio. Photo: Jeff Swensen for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

News deserts that have been spreading across rural America are creeping towards small and medium-sized cities.

Why it matters: For decades, newspapers have served as a powerful check on the power of local municipalities. In their absence, city governments are becoming less efficient and fewer politicians want to run for local office.

Driving the news: The closure of The Vindicator, 150-year-old local newspaper for Youngstown, Ohio, has led to fears that that many similar small- and medium-sized city newspapers around the country will soon face a similar fate.

  • As Nieman Lab’s Josh Benton notes, many dying papers are owned by families who are tired of trying to revitalize shrinking businesses.
  • Those family owners typically sell to big newspaper chains, like Gannett or McClatchy. But when even the big chains don’t want to save those papers, there’s a big problem. 

Papers still in business are scaling back: The Chicago Defender, a paper published for the city's black community since 1905, is ending print publication this week.

Be smart: Academics have found that without the critical government oversight facilitated by newspapers, city municipalities are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and are becoming less efficient.

  • “Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Notre Dame found that municipal borrowing costs increase after a newspaper ceases publication,” the AP reports.
  • Academics have also pointed out that that fewer politicians are running for smaller local government positions, like mayor, because there’s less local newspaper coverage of those races.

The bottom line: The watchdogs that have kept municipal governments accountable and productive for more than a century are disappearing.  

Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.