Assessing Local Journalism:News Deserts, Journalism Divides, and the Determinants of the Robustness of Local News

This study looked at the erosion of local news by examining news articles. In analyzing 16,000 news stories, gathered over seven days, across 100 randomly sampled U.S. communities, the study found

"Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local – that is actually about or having taken place within – the municipality.

Less than half (43 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets are original (i.e., are produced by the local media outlet).

Just over half (56 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets address a critical information need."

The study also examined features that tended to affect how robust the news is in a community. They included: 

"Distance from a large media market (the smaller the distance, the less robust is the local journalism).

Number of universities (the more universities in a community, the more robust is the local journalism).

Hispanic/Latino population (the greater the proportion of a community’s population that is Hispanic/Latino, the less robust is the journalism in that community)."

The study did not find a link between a community being a seat of county government and the level of journalistic production., reinforcing concerns about a decline in local government reporting.


We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.