New SOM research explains the reasons and consequences of the decline of local journalism
A new study from the School of Management shows how local journalism has declined as people turn to television.
Hannah Qu and Alessia Degraeve
A new research initiative from the Yale School of Management has shown that the decline of local newspapers in America is creating uninformed communities that don’t engage in local politics.
Yale Insights – a research publication short for SOM – published research detailing the effect of the lack of local newspapers in the United States. Michael Sinkinson, assistant professor at SOM, analyzed the decline of local newspapers as more and more Americans turn to television news. He said it creates communities that lack civic engagement.
“Economists believe there is a positive externality of news, which is that newspapers help root out corruption in government,” Sinkinson told The News. “[News] is a product that we consume and that actually slightly improves society. As new technologies emerge, the market for local information has withered. … Newspapers do important work for society, and I think it’s important to understand the economics of how they operate.
Sinkinson and his colleagues have found that the presence of television poses a threat to the survival of local newspapers. While newspapers rely on information such as weather, sports, local and national news, these can now be easily found on television alongside free entertainment. Newspapers have traditionally made their money by “selling people’s attention” to advertisers, Sinkinson said, but as TV now competes in that market, it’s harder for newspapers to make their case to the big boys. national advertisers. Sinkinson noted that it is therefore crucial to explore a new business model for local newspapers.
Additionally, Sinkinson and his colleagues found a smaller percentage of informed voters in communities that relied on television as their primary source of information, as opposed to a local newspaper. The study showed that when citizens abandoned local newspapers and turned to television instead, their appreciation of local events in the area decreased. He concluded that the decline of local journalism and the resulting national perspective on politics led voters to choose candidates based solely on their party affiliation.
“People only pay attention to national politics. … They no longer hold politicians accountable,” Sinkinson explained. “Hopefully we’ll see more engagement at the grassroots level as opposed to this nationalization.”
Sinkinson suggested that when reporting local news, journalists should connect with the impact of readers’ daily lives and keep them informed and engaged.
Professor Mark Oppenheimer ’96 GRD ’03, director of the Yale Journalism Initiative, said Sinkinson’s research presents important new findings regarding the relationship between television and the decline of local news.
“We know that there has been an extraordinary reduction in local newspapers since the advent of the Internet, but this research takes us further back to notice that this problematic trend began at the entrance to television,” Oppenheimer said. .
Yale offers journalism courses and helps students start careers in the industry through the Yale Journalism Initiative. The University also offers subscriptions to hundreds of online newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
“I definitely feel the presence of journalism on campus,” Kennedy Anderson ’25 said. “As you walk into the dining hall, there are always copies of newspapers, including the Yale Daily News and the Yale Herald, waiting to be read.”
Many Yale students write for campus publications, which range from newspapers to magazines to literary collections. Zack Hauptman ’25, who has written for the Yale Daily News and the Yale Herald, said writing for publications has been “instrumental” to his time at Yale so far.
However, Roger Guo ’22 told The News that he felt campus publications lacked fact-checking and few people used college newspapers as their main source of daily news.
Sinkinson noted that Yale students should recognize that they are not only part of the University, but also members of the New Haven community. He suggested that Yale students support New Haven journalism as much as possible and be aware of events in the city. For aspiring student journalists, Sinkinson recommended reaching out to alumni in the field and researching conferences and events to learn more about journalism opportunities.
The Yale Journalism Initiative was founded in 2006.