Dec 1, 2018

The News Divide: Where the death of local news hits hardest

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

High-speed broadband and mobile internet have created more opportunities to access free news and information than ever before.

Yes, but: It's also made it harder for quality news and information outlets, particularly ones in rural areas, to survive. Tech has disrupted the local media business model and pushed more journalism behind paywalls — and there's no end in sight.

News technology divide: Rural communities will rely on more traditional news formats as newer technologies hit cities first.

  • Experts worry that the deployment of 5G over the next few years will worsen the digital divide and have a lasting impact on how rural communities will be able to access quality news and information.
  • National cable and broadcast networks that reach rural America are pushing resources into streaming channels as linear television revenues decline.
  • But a lack of high-speed broadband in rural America will make it more difficult for some communities to access those streaming channels as more traditional channels are pulled off the air due to economic pressures.

Consolidation means less local information: Technology has changed media economics to favor scale and consolidate under big holding groups concentrated in large cities.

  • A study released in October by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism shows a stark decline of newspapers in rural areas.
  • "More than 500 newspapers have been closed or merged in rural communities since 2004. Most of these counties where newspapers closed have poverty rates significantly above the national average. Because of the isolated nature of these communities, there is little to fill the void when the paper closes."
  • And while digital websites are trying to fill the gap, they often don't have the same journalism resources as the former newspaper.

New owners of local news franchises are lest invested in local news: Industry economics have prioritized national news over local.

  • A study from Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy earlier this year found that only 17% of news stories in a community are actually local, meaning they're actually about or having taken place within a municipality. 
  • And less than half of the news stories (43%) provided to a community by local media outlets are original.
  • This is often because holding groups are consolidating resources, forcing local reporters to focus on national stories that reach bigger audiences.

The rise of paywalls means that high quality information will funnel to elites: As the digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, it's becoming evident that digital ad dollars will continue to flow primarily to tech platforms rather than news publishers.

  • Because of this, publishers are setting up paywalls (subscriptions, members, etc.) to survive. And while more Americans say they are willing to pay for news, those with higher levels of education are more likely to do so. In all, 66% of adults with a college degree pay for news, compared to 43% of people with a high school diploma or less.
  • "There is a growing gap in public knowledge between the information-rich and the information-poor," says Rodney Benson, chair of NYU's Department of Media.
  • Benson cites other Westernized countries that have less of an information gap because of widely-available publicly-funded broadcast television. Examples include the BBC in the U.K., SVT in Sweden or ZDF/ARD in Germany.

What's next? The death of local news in rural America is expected to accelerate.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 patients in hospital after reporting another day of zero new infections. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But health officials decided to include her death in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,690,951 — Total deaths: 355,575 — Total recoveries — 2,350,071Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,699,073 — Total deaths: 100,396 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.