The Decline of Local News and Its Effects: New Evidence from Longitudinal Data
We present the first longitudinal evidence that declining local political news coverage is reducing citizen engagement. Drawing on a content analysis of more than 10,000 stories about US House campaigns in 2010 and 2014, we show that local newspapers over this period published less, and less substantive, political news. We then use panel data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to investigate how the news environment influences citizen engagement. Tracking the same individuals over time and simultaneously measuring changes in media content in their communities reveals that reductions in citizens’ political knowledge and participation follow declines in coverage about congressional elections. To the extent that the local news environment continues to deteriorate—a likely scenario as the industry continues to struggle—observers’ concerns about political engagement in localities across the United States appear very much justified.