“Reinvigorating Local News,” from News Hole: The Demise of Local News and Political Engagement – and What We Can Do about It (co-authored with Danny Hayes).

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Local news is dying – and publishers are struggling financially – because many consumers, given other options, have stopped paying attention to it. Accordingly, any long-term solution to the industry’s financial crisis must include reinvigorating Americans’ demand for local public affairs content. We suggest a demand-side approach that capitalizes on the fact that many Americans actually have favorable attitudes toward local news and local politics – at least in the abstract. Drawing on decades of research across the social sciences, we argue that exposing Americans to messages that activate these positive attitudes can boost their interest in and consumption of local news. This is more than an academic (no offense) prospect. We rely on survey data, survey experiments, and two exit polls to demonstrate that one route to boosting (or at least stabilizing) audiences for local news could be a communication effort that reminds people of the importance of local government and local community. That would not only help local news outlets’ bottom line, but would also give them a financial incentive to provide the kind of local public affairs coverage that is essential for democracy to work.