The media company Gannett, which publishes USA Today and over 1,100 other newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer, announced significant budget cuts on Oct. 12. Cuts to newsrooms included mandatory unpaid leave, a freeze to 401(k) contributions and voluntary buyouts. Gannett executives explained the cuts as necessary for the company’s long-term financial stability. This and other threats to independent newsrooms around the country are worrying to us at the Collegian and should concern all Kenyon students and community members. In turn, we must make a concerted effort to support local news.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 1983 newspaper circulation was around 63.5 million issues per day. In 2020, this fell to 24.3 million. Another alarming trend is the rate of local newspapers being bought up by large media companies like Gannett. In Knox County, The Mount Vernon News (MVN) was purchased in 2020 by Metric Media LLC, a conservative media company that owns approximately 1,200 other publications. Since then, MVN has limited printing from six days a week to two — a dramatic decrease that affects both the frequency and quality of news available to Knox County residents.
Local news matters. We live in an increasingly centralized media environment, where people (if they don’t get their news from social media) read primarily large national news sources like the New York Times. While national papers like this may provide high-quality coverage, they simply cannot cover thoroughly the local stories local papers are able to. Local papers also build community by covering regional events and advertising local businesses.
Further, local news covers local and state political races — the underpinning of our liberal democracy. Though the focus of American politics has become national in the past several decades, state and local races still matter, as they determine the makeup of local courts, as well as regional funding allocations, infrastructure codes and regulations and a slew of other pressing matters. It is through local news that individuals learn about regional candidates that directly implement, design and vote on these pertinent policies. Considering that informed voting decisions are the cornerstone of a well-functioning democracy, local news plays an invaluable — and irreplaceable — role in maintaining the integrity of our political system.
We urge our readers to recognize the importance of strong local media sources. Large media companies are simply unable to fully understand and cover the dynamics of and issues facing smaller communities. Without local sources, no one is there to hold local politicians accountable or write about the true concerns of constituents. By retaining readership and building financial support, the publications that remain may have a chance of surviving the considerable decrease the prevalence of local news. As Kenyon students, whether we’re Ohioans or only in the state for our four years on the Hill, we should support local papers like those affected in the Gannett cuts.
Do what you can: Read your local paper, donate if you have the means and turn off your adblocker when you visit local news websites. It is imperative that we do not sit idly by while local journalism perishes.
Salvatore, Amelia and Reid
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Amelia Carnell ’23 and Salvatore Macchione ’23 and executive director Reid Stautberg ’23. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.