Why local newspapers may live long yet - 23 January 2019

English journalist ADAM SINGOLDA recently quoted Warren Buffett thus in an article posted on ‘The Independent’ website: “If you want to know what’s going on in your town, whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football, there is no substitute for a local newspaper.”

Local journalism is enjoying a well-deserved comeback, spurred in particular by millennials, the most connected generation in history.
I confess. I love local journalism. I love how connected, and even “old school” it makes me feel, the way it reflects the communities we live in - their interests, concerns and passions. I love the way it touches our lives and reminds us of how important our small and immediate world is.
So naturally, I’ve paid a lot of attention to all the speculation around the future of local journalism. Frankly, there is a lot of pessimism around the subject. There probably isn’t a reporter who hasn’t read or predicted that local journalism is dying.
And there’s a good reason for the naysayers, sadly. The collapse in print revenues - and the inability of digital monetisation to pick up the slack thus far - has had calamitous effects, even more so on local news: the closing of bureaus; the hollowing out of newsrooms and cutbacks in essential local coverage.
There’s a lack of resources to create the kinds of engaging content and user experience that will attract millennials, who will be the main readers of local news in the future.
But despite the repeated chiming of the death knell, I believe local news has more than turned the corner. I am optimistic for a number of intersecting reasons – so much so that I don’t think it is quixotic to assert that we are entering a new golden age of local journalism.
Let me explain in some more detail.
The essential role that local news will continue to play in the lives of individuals is an enduring reality; Warren Buffett said it well when he invested over $300m (£220m) in newspapers several years ago:
“If you want to know what’s going on in your town, whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football, there is no substitute for a local newspaper. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable… papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly bound communities and having a sensible internet strategy will remain viable for a long time.”
“I think it’s important to maintain an open dialogue on important issues that surround our industry, so as I began thinking about my views on local journalism, I asked some of the important leaders around the world to weigh in. Grant Whitmore, executive vice-president of digital at the New York Daily News, framed his take like this:
“As so much of the country’s attention is focused on what is happening at a national level, it is easy to forget that what is going in our local communities has the greatest impact on quality of life issues for ourselves and our families.”
The second force for optimism is the millennial generation - the largest cohort in American history to date. I am watching their mobility, and I am encouraged. There is evidence that millennials are not moving geographically as much as their predecessor generations. There is no doubt that this will amplify and deepen their connection to their local communities, reinforcing the Buffettian argument.