NEW CASTLE, Pa., March 23, 2015 — Media, that “fourth estate,” is now fueling political gridlock in Washington. Instead of covering the news, professional news outlets increasingly cover those issues and events that politically influential Americans want to see in the news.
The growing number of free sources of information from the internet continually increase competition for diminishing ad and subscription revenue. Unable to survive on small local audiences and low-budget advertisers, small community newspapers, news stations and radio stations are struggling to compete against major news outlets. In order to survive, news providers and gathers must cater to broader audiences.
News outlets must nationalize their news coverage so they can appeal to those broader audiences. Because news outlets need massive amounts of ad revenue to support their infrastructure and paid staff, nationalizing the news means catering to densely populated communities where readership and viewership are highest, and to special interests.
Smaller communities matter only when they can be exploited on a regional and national level. Local stories matter to the nation when the lessons learned from those stories are covered so that they relate to the issues facing communities around the country, but such stories rarely receive a great deal of attention and they are always fleeting.
Obsessing over tragedies in places like Ferguson, Mo., in order to capitalize on human emotions seems to be one of the popular ways for all news outlets to bump up their ratings. Although some of the original Ferguson coverage sparked a national debate on race relations and police shootings, the story quickly veered away from social and political solutions to focus on the drama that Ferguson has become.
On top of the list of newspapers that provide much of the reporting for other news sources are the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily Times, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Certainly, it is impressive that each of these news providers has from three to five million daily local readers for their print and online publications, but their combined readership still is only a fraction of the population.
More importantly, all of these publications serve major cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Washington. Not only do these publications fall short of fully representing those in their own communities, they also fail to represent the much smaller communities that make up the majority of the United States.
While individuals living outside of these major communities do read and take interest in stories from these diversified, behemoth communities, the lack of ongoing, in-depth coverage of smaller communities where most Americans live leaves the world blind to their interests and perspectives.
This writer has received a great deal of editorial backlash for his in-depth, ongoing coverage of New Castle, Pa. Although the presentation of this writer as the host of FocusNC on local television star tup NCTV45 reflected national interests, the stories did not draw the attention of nationalized readers.
New Castle may be a small town of little consequence to the national media stage, even when one considers its historic impact, but it has more in common with more communities throughout the U.S. than Washington, New York or Los Angeles will ever have. The lessons learned from events and issues in New Castle can have more value to the American people than how those issues are covered in New York or Washington.
Because the Greater New Castle Area is on the periphery of all major television newscasts, there is little coverage of New Castle and the surrounding municipalities. Unfortunately, the attention it does get from regional news providers is often due to some major negative event that occurred within the community. Not only does this coverage perpetuate a negative outlook among the population, it also hurts the ability of the community to sell itself to outsiders.
Nationally, a 2012 Washington Post article that featured the story of a girl struggling with poverty, for example, thoroughly misrepresented New Castle by, in part, focusing on the personal and emotional aspects of her story. Instead of offering insights into the socioeconomic dynamic of New Castle and uncovering solutions, the writer used New Castle as a backdrop for a generic story that could have been about anyone coming from anywhere.
To those in Washington, Los Angeles and New York, New Castle is just a part of what some call “fly-over” country, i.e., most of America. From this, it is clear that the interests and perspectives of most Americans do not actually matter to those in America’s most influential communities, unless it is entertaining to them.
Unfortunately, the lack of constructive and continual oversight of government by local press leads to a lack of accountability and responsiveness on behalf of local residents. It also blinds national leaders to the issues and perspectives of average Americans. This means political leaders are not being adequately pressured to represent the actual perspectives and interests of average Americans. Thus Washington gridlock flourishes.