Local journalism has a significant impact on communities

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Vijay Viswanathan

Local journalism is an important way that people get news. Local news magazines in the Lafayette area includes The St. Louis Dispatch and West Newsmagazine. Local journalism has always remained at the heart of the country, even if many people don’t realize it.

Vijay Viswanathan, Sports Editor

In the public eye, most of the interest is geared toward national media organizations, such as The New York TimesABC News and Vox Media. They have a huge pool of reporters that go all over the world, fancy studios and graphics. They also break major news stories.

However, most of the information that national media organizations use actually come from local news organizations. Local media organizations also tend to get more personalized information out to the public compared to national media organizations. Local journalism is literally more trusted than national journalism. A report made by the Knight Foundation in conjunction with Gallup found that Americans trust local news 45% of the time, compared to 31% for national news.

When there was a tornado outbreak between Dec. 10-11, the national media was all over it, sending reporters to Kentucky and to Edwardsville. However, a majority of those national media outlets relied on information from local media outlets. NBC News and the BBC relied on information from KSDK 5 and CBS News used information and a correspondent from KMOV 4.

Local news is so much more than just watching the two anchors you know the most. It can have a larger impact than national news can. For example, in the American territory of Puerto Rico, the island’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) managed to get records of chats that then-Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló had on the social media app Telegram with other top officials in the Puerto Rican government. The chats were found to be misogynistic, homophobic and quite vulgar in nature, along with revealing corruption within the island’s government. After the chats were made public by CPI, Puerto Rico was engulfed in protests against Rosselló and his administration. The protests caused an impeachment committee to be formed, but Rosselló resigned before the committee could proceed. Here’s the thing, the national media was none the wiser about any of this until the protests broke out in Puerto Rico. They literally got their information from CPI. Had they not contacted CPI for any information, the national media would be unable to write a story. It also reveals that local media organizations and local journalists are much better at holding governments and politicians accountable for their actions, as they have more insight into their area.

Another example of why local journalism is important was immortalized in the 2015 movie Spotlight, which is about reporters at the Boston Globe investigating and breaking the story about sexual abuse of children at the hands of the Catholic Church in Boston and across the state of Massachusetts. The team from the Boston Globe broke the story in 2002 and it set off a chain reaction. I can guarantee you that the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church would not have come to light had the Boston Globe not reported on it.

Comedian and TV host John Oliver and his show, Last Week Tonight is a great example of using local journalism. Multiple episodes of the show have relied on local journalism. For example, Oliver did an episode on the need to update the 911 Emergency System in the United States and the episode relied on reporting from Atlanta’s 11 Alive, the network affiliate of NBC in Atlanta.

Local journalism is important because they report on the stories that most directly affect you. A famous example is Fox 2’s Elliot Davis and his segment known as “You Paid for It.” The segment deals with investigating local government waste and other governmental mismanagement. His investigations have resulted in massive changes. One of his investigations caused the State of Missouri to overhaul their vehicle emissions testing program to make it easier for Missouri drivers after a mishap surrounding a company contracted by Missouri to conduct the tests.  Had he not investigated this, there is a possibility that the state’s emissions testing process could have become even more confusing. Along with “You Paid for It,” multiple other news channels have their own investigative bureau, such as the I-Team of ABC 7 in Chicago.

All in all, local journalism is at the heart of America. It’s one of the things that keeps this country alive. While I’m not dismissing the work that national journalists do for the country, it’s local journalism that truly makes this country a better place.