Thomas Jefferson famously declared, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Jefferson knew that local papers were vital to a thriving democracy, and that notion is as true today as it was at our nation’s beginning. Americans know it, too. They trust their local news outlets, even in this highly fractured and partisan time. Compared to national news, six in 10 Americans have more trust in local news to report on stories that affect their daily lives, and they are about twice as likely to trust local news to report on the information they need to vote.
Despite our trust in local news, too many communities today are hurtling towards Jefferson’s worst fear, but in a way he never could have imagined. About two newspapers have been closing every week since 2005. Instead of the government stifling journalism, local papers are steadily being shuttered due to the unchecked influence of two private entities: Google and Facebook.