Editorial: Local news is worth saving

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Andrew Tolu

As local news sources are declining in number, it has become more important than ever before to support local sources.

Recently, the town I live in, San Mateo, was left without a mayor. I discovered this almost by accident when, while scrolling on Instagram, I saw a post from a local politician I follow demanding that the city council of San Mateo reinstate a mayor.

After reading the short paragraph in the caption of that Instagram post, I was left lost and confused as to what exactly was going on. Immediately afterward, I hopped on the web to get the whole story.

After finding a San Mateo Daily Journal article on the subject, I sank into my couch to give it a read and inform myself on the ins and outs of politics in my area. Had a reliable local news organization in my area not existed, an increasingly common reality for many Americans, I would have been misled and misinformed by the biased description of the story from the local politician. 

This important local news story was not on the front page of The New York Times or The Washington Post, not even The San Francisco Chronicle, it was on the website of one of the thousands of local newspapers across the country.

It’s not just stories about local politics that shine through in smaller publications, but stories about local events, catastrophes, and crimes. Once again, it was local newspapers that I and many Carlmont students looked at when there was a hit-and-run accident near Carlmont earlier this year, or when there was a shooting at the Carlmont shopping center last year.

Local news is essential for Americans to stay informed on what is happening in their communities and it is by and large on the decline. Since 2004, the United States has lost well over 2,000 newspapers, or roughly a quarter of the total number.

San Mateo county is blessed with a population of over 700,000 people and has the luxury of multiple daily newspapers such as the San Mateo Daily Journal and the Redwood City Pulse along with a multitude of high-quality student-run papers.  This is not the case, however, for many Americans.

Two out of every three counties in the United States have no daily newspaper. And an estimated 70 million Americans live in a county with either none or only one local news organization.

This is a catastrophic problem that must be resolved. As a society, we must advocate for greater importance to be placed on high-quality local news organizations. We must pressure legislators to better subsidize local publications.

At a time when misinformation runs rampant across social media sites, it is more important now than ever before to continue to invest in local media that delivers such important information. So, next time the pop-up banner shows up on a local paper’s website advertising their mail list, give it a second thought before you click the “X” button.

*This editorial reflects the views of the Scot Scoop Editorial Board and was written by Andrew Tolu. The Editorial Board voted 8 in agreement, 2 somewhat in agreement, and 2 refrained from voting.