McCain Institute Hosts Democracy Discussion on the Decline of Local Journalism

Panel discussion is first event in the McCain Institute’s new “Defending American Democracy” series

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The McCain Institute at Arizona State University hosted its first “Defending American Democracy” series event today, which focused on the decline of local journalism and its impact on American democracy.

Today’s discussion featured Report for America Corps Member and Reporter at The Times-Picayune Emily Woodruff, Director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media Erica Beshars-Perel, and Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Todd Novak. The conversation was moderated by President and Co-Founder of Report for America Steve Waldman.

The conversation centered around the cause of “news deserts” around the country and the effect they have on the populations in those areas. The panelists also touched on what type of news or information fills the void left by the decline of local news.

“The decline of local news has created vacuums, and the vacuums get filled. It’s not that when we say there is a news-desert that means there’s no information. It’s a different kind of information,” said President & Co-Founder of Report for America Steve Waldman. “It gets filled by other things…it gets filled by national news…it could get filled by social media, it gets filled by neighbors, listservs and Next Door, some of which is accurate and some isn’t.”

“The link between high-quality local news and a well-functioning democracy is clear,” said Director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media Erica Beshears-Perel. “The answer to what ails local news right now is less clear, overall the picture is worrisome.”

“I’m the only dedicated local health reporter working in print in the entire state of Louisiana,” said Report for America Corps Member and Reporter at The Times-Picayune Emily Woodruff. “People are always surprised to hear this, and it surprises me too even after three years of working here because there is really nowhere where health reporting could be used more.”

“People are news-junkies here. They trust their local media but they don’t trust their national media, and that’s across the board,” said Wisconsin State Assembly Representative Todd Novak. “That’s why I think local media is so important.”

This panel is part of the McCain Institute’s “Defending American Democracy” series with support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Click HERE to watch today’s event.

About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Inspired by Senator John S. McCain and his family’s legacy of public service, the McCain Institute for International Leadership is fighting to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership, both at home and around the world.

About Arizona State University
Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

Publish Date
February 18, 2022
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