Our View: The Dispatch remains committed to local journalism

August 15, 2018 10:38:33 AM



Over the past 20 years or so, it is no secret that the newspaper industry has struggled on the business side, with newspapers being shuttered, staffs being cut and coverage of some news being eliminated or greatly reduced.


The effect of those moves is most noticeable among smaller newspapers. Let's face it: Even with the decline in the industry, when somebody in D.C. blows his nose, you're going to hear about it.


But economic pressures have led to reduced community journalism and in some cases created news deserts.



The consequences of reduced coverage are real.


One of journalism's roles is to inform the citizenry on the actions of their government and to give context to those actions. When that check is removed, a breeding ground for corruption is encouraged. For example, a recent study found a direct link between the loss of a newspaper in a community and that community paying higher fees and interest on municipal bonds.


Unwatched, people have a tendency to push rules.


In an effort to assess the state of news reporting, researchers at Duke University recently analyzed more than 16,000 news stories across 100 U.S. communities with populations ranging from 20,000 to 300,000. Columbus and Starkville both fall within that range.


What they discovered was not encouraging.


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. These included categories such as emergencies and risks, education, civic information, etc.


That data piqued our curiosity here at The Dispatch, so we did our own research.


In the past 30 days, our print edition produced 333 stories. Of those, 42 percent (140) were local stories (25 percent higher than the study's average). Of those local stories, 91 percent (127) were original content produced by our staff (compared to the study's 43 percent average). Of those local stories, 76 percent (106) were stories of civil importance (compared to the study's 56 percent).


We believe these numbers reflect our commitment to local news as our highest priority.


Although not immune to the pressures of the marketplace, we remain committed to our goal to provide our readers with relevant, meaningful coverage of our community produced by our staff.


You can play a role in that effort. If you see or hear about something going on in our community, let us know; don't assume we are already aware.


We're proud of the work we do and appreciate the support of our readers and advertisers.