Local news is in a sorry state nationwide — but there is hope


The nation since 2005 has lost a third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists, according to a study by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Illinois has been hit hard: Five downstate counties have no local news source, and four others are at risk of losing their lone outlet. Illinois newspapers have lost 86% of their journalism jobs since 2005. Chicago, despite a boomlet in the nonprofit journalism sector, still is among the 20 metro areas with the largest loss of news sources per capita.

The troubles come at a fragile time for the state of democracy in the U.S. Studies show that in “news deserts” and other places where news gathering is at risk, there follows a related rise in political polarization and shrinking voter turnout, as well as increases in government spending and corruption.

Now an Illinois state task force has studied the problems, is offering solutions and also is taking a realistic view about the limits of what can be done.

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