Local to live, wire to wither

“A major metropolitan daily will sever its ties with the major wire services and go local-only.”

Americans need local news. Though the supply is dwindling, the demand is there. Without a strong local newspaper, news website, or television station, people will turn to less-regulated forums for information, like Facebook groups and NextDoor threads, full of partisan hate and misinformation.

There are few things that have a better effect on governance than a healthy, locally focused news environment: representatives bring back more money and vote the party line less often, businesses behave better, polarization decreases, turnout is higher, municipal finances are better, and pollution is reduced. In other words, reliable original news about a community improves that community.

So naturally, today’s local newspapers are filled with the opposite: Wire content about national politics. Not to be outdone, their websites are full of syndicated local stories from other areas, which can be confusing to readers. They endure as ghosts of their former selves.

In 2023, I predict that a major metropolitan daily will sever its ties with the major wire services and go local-only.

There is an enduring belief that a newspaper should inform its readers about the news of the world: a broad sweep of local and national politics, sports, entertainment, and culture, all arriving in a bundle on the doorstep before dawn. (It’s a romantic image for me too!) But there’s simply too much national news available today.

Local newspapers should stop filling their published product with non-local news and focus on what makes them unique, even if this breaks from the tradition of what many expect from a local newspaper or televised newscast. I recognize that these struggling local news sources will need more resources to do this, but they are not going to attract or retain subscribers by republishing stories about non-local topics.

The glut of national wire stories in today’s local newspapers is mostly explained by the economic crisis facing local news. As staffs are repeatedly cut, there are not enough reporters to fill a newspaper with original local content. Given that print advertising remains more profitable than digital for most newspapers, there is still plenty of incentive to publish a print edition. As subscription and per-issue prices increase, however, the remaining consumers open their local newspaper to see mostly national stories that are free to read online on other sites.

In ongoing research with Trusting News, my collaborators and I show that readers hold newsrooms accountable for perceived bias in the wire stories they run. The oversimplified headlines and snarky language common to national political opinion and analysis sticks out in many local newspapers, and readers often assume editors are running wire stories because they agree with them. It’s not clear enough to readers which stories are original and which come from the wires, and there is little evidence that the wire stories provide any value except increasing the page count.

Local media outlets’ remaining advantage in the information marketplace comes from reporting about their geographic area, and by filling their pages with national news, they are making the decision to unsubscribe easier for their remaining customers. A local news source cannot merely be a pale imitation of national news, or it will have no reason to exist.

Joshua P. Darr is an associate professor of political communication in the Manship School of Mass Communication and the department of political science at Louisiana State University.

Americans need local news. Though the supply is dwindling, the demand is there. Without a strong local newspaper, news website, or television station, people will turn to less-regulated forums for information, like Facebook groups and NextDoor threads, full of partisan hate and misinformation.

There are few things that have a better effect on governance than a healthy, locally focused news environment: representatives bring back more money and vote the party line less often, businesses behave better, polarization decreases, turnout is higher, municipal finances are better, and pollution is reduced. In other words, reliable original news about a community improves that community.

So naturally, today’s local newspapers are filled with the opposite: Wire content about national politics. Not to be outdone, their websites are full of syndicated local stories from other areas, which can be confusing to readers. They endure as ghosts of their former selves.

In 2023, I predict that a major metropolitan daily will sever its ties with the major wire services and go local-only.

There is an enduring belief that a newspaper should inform its readers about the news of the world: a broad sweep of local and national politics, sports, entertainment, and culture, all arriving in a bundle on the doorstep before dawn. (It’s a romantic image for me too!) But there’s simply too much national news available today.

Local newspapers should stop filling their published product with non-local news and focus on what makes them unique, even if this breaks from the tradition of what many expect from a local newspaper or televised newscast. I recognize that these struggling local news sources will need more resources to do this, but they are not going to attract or retain subscribers by republishing stories about non-local topics.

The glut of national wire stories in today’s local newspapers is mostly explained by the economic crisis facing local news. As staffs are repeatedly cut, there are not enough reporters to fill a newspaper with original local content. Given that print advertising remains more profitable than digital for most newspapers, there is still plenty of incentive to publish a print edition. As subscription and per-issue prices increase, however, the remaining consumers open their local newspaper to see mostly national stories that are free to read online on other sites.

In ongoing research with Trusting News, my collaborators and I show that readers hold newsrooms accountable for perceived bias in the wire stories they run. The oversimplified headlines and snarky language common to national political opinion and analysis sticks out in many local newspapers, and readers often assume editors are running wire stories because they agree with them. It’s not clear enough to readers which stories are original and which come from the wires, and there is little evidence that the wire stories provide any value except increasing the page count.

Local media outlets’ remaining advantage in the information marketplace comes from reporting about their geographic area, and by filling their pages with national news, they are making the decision to unsubscribe easier for their remaining customers. A local news source cannot merely be a pale imitation of national news, or it will have no reason to exist.

Joshua P. Darr is an associate professor of political communication in the Manship School of Mass Communication and the department of political science at Louisiana State University.

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

Shanté Cosme   The answer to “quiet quitting” is radical empathy

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Don Day   The news about the news is bad. I’m optimistic.

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

Jennifer Brandel   AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Kaitlin C. Miller   Harassment in journalism won’t get better, but we’ll talk about it more openly

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

AX Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Burt Herman   The year AI truly arrives — and with it the reckoning

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Mauricio Cabrera   It’s no longer about audiences, it’s about communities

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Kavya Sukumar   Belling the cat: The rise of independent fact-checking at scale

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Jacob L. Nelson   Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Laura E. Davis   The year we embrace the robots — and ourselves

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Well-being will become a core tenet of journalism

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Megan Lucero and Shirish Kulkarni   The future of journalism is not you

Nikki Usher   This is the year of the RSS reader. (Really!)

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Andrew Losowsky   Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates