“The number of journalists killed worldwide in retaliation for their work nearly doubled this year, according to an annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.”
- “34 journalists were killed in retaliation for their work, … while at least 53 were killed overall. That compares to 18 retaliation killings among the 47 deaths documented by the committee in 2017.”
- “[J]ournalists have died in combat or crossfire, or on other dangerous assignments. The deadliest country for journalists this year has been Afghanistan, where 13 journalists were killed.”
- “[T]he imprisonment of journalists has [also] been on the rise.”
“Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders said … the U.S. made it into the top five deadliest countries for journalists this year for the first time, with six dying, including four who were among five people killed by a gunman who opened fire in the offices of Maryland newspaper Capital Gazette.”
The Fresno Bee and the War on Local News
Local newspapers like The Fresno Bee have long been an endangered institution in America, and that was before California Rep. Devin Nunes began waging a public campaign against his hometown paper. Zach Baron spent time with the reporters fighting to keep news alive in an age when the forces they cover are working equally hard to destroy them.
“In October, the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism released a study that estimated that a full 20 percent of all local newspapers have gone out of business or merged since 2004. Since then, an additional 1,300-plus communities in the United States have found themselves without any news source about their own city, town, or county. “Our sense of community and our trust in democracy at all levels suffer when journalism is lost or diminished,” the authors of the report wrote. “In an age of fake news and divisive politics, the fate of communities across the country—and of grassroots democracy itself—is linked to the vitality of local journalism.”
New owners of local news franchises are lest invested in local news: Industry economics have prioritized national news over local.
- A study from Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy earlier this year found that only 17% of news stories in a community are actually local, meaning they’re actually about or having taken place within a municipality.
- And less than half of the news stories (43%) provided to a community by local media outlets are original.
- This is often because holding groups are consolidating resources, forcing local reporters to focus on national stories that reach bigger audiences.
The rise of paywalls means that high quality information will funnel to elites: As the digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, it’s becoming evident that digital ad dollars will continue to flow primarily to tech platforms rather than news publishers.
- Because of this, publishers are setting up paywalls (subscriptions, members, etc.) to survive. And while more Americans say they are willing to pay for news, those with higher levels of education are more likely to do so. In all, 66% of adults with a college degree pay for news, compared to 43% of people with a high school diploma or less.
“There is a growing gap in public knowledge between the information-rich and the information-poor,” says Rodney Benson, chair of NYU’s Department of Media.
- Benson cites other Westernized countries that have less of an information gap because of widely-available publicly-funded broadcast television. Examples include the BBC in the U.K., SVT in Sweden or ZDF/ARD in Germany.
What’s next? The death of local news in rural America is expected to accelerate.
“Increasingly, journalism serves as a powerful force for exclusion, for keeping quality information away from those who need it most, for discouraging anyone but the richest, most educated citizens from participating in the public conversation.”
— Rodney Benson, chair of NYU’s Department of Media Culture & Communication