Long before the pandemic, the local news business had been in a tailspin. Newspapers across the country lost classified advertising revenue thanks to internet sites like Craigslist. Terrestrial radio stations lost their audience to iTunes — and then Spotify. Most commercial radio stations don’t offer news anymore. Most Americans under 35 think of newspapers and radio news as odd products their parents consume, like Spam and Velveeta.
As a college kid in Viroqua, Wisconsin, I covered local news in the summers for our local radio station and called in freelance articles on the city council or school board decisions to the LaCrosse Tribune. The matters discussed were probably uninteresting to most. I learned what a “property easement” was, and reported on the debate over how to dispose of old railroad ties. I didn’t find it scintillating.
The nagging question for journalism: Can you get anyone to read or click on decisions this “small”? In late 2018, 71% of Americans told the