The rise in political polarization in the U.S. in undeniable, but it may have nothing to do with the politics, according to a recent article published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
National publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have seen tremendous growth in the age of polarization.
But what about local publications?
According to NiemanLab, in 2006, local American newspapers employed over 74,000 people and circulated to 52 million readers on weekdays. In 2017, this number dropped significantly to only 39,000 people employed by a local paper and a circulation of fewer than 31 million Americans.
The“death” of newspapers has been much-talked-about, but the political polarization that arises from a lack of local news hasn’t been discussed near as much.
“The Journal of Communication” argues that losing a local newspaper can encourage citizens to rely on national media, which is typically overwhelmingly partisan, and can change their opinions while voting.
NiemanLab found that “voters were 1.9 percent more likely to vote for the same party for president and senator after a newspaper closes in their community, compared to voters in statistically similar areas where a newspaper did not close.”
Additionally, NiemanLab reported that split-ticket voting decreased by 2 percent in towns that lost their local newspaper.
What can we do to stop it?
My answer: Support your local newspaper.
A couple dollars toward a subscription to your local publication could make the difference between a city filled with polarized, one-sided news and one filled with honest, unbiased reporting — information needed to participate in your democracy.
Pay a few bucks. It’s worth it.