Dengler Domain: Division
“America is more divided than ever.”
This common sentiment is shared across people from all different political stripes. One reason for this sentiment across the United States is the death of local news, specifically newspapers. I apologize in advance if this is too much of tooting newspaper’s own horn, but it matters. I did not think about it much until the recent mix up of the former’s Traer Star-Clipper’s whereabouts. Traer, Dysart, and many other small towns used to have one newspaper of record. In the past, when these newspapers were sufficiently funded, there was ample supply of information informing the local populace. If you have the chance to check out their archives, be amazed at how much local reporting existed. Nothing wrong with the North Tama Telegraph’s reporting today, but there simply is not the workforce to provide what these newspapers could do in the past. Going from multiple reporters for one town’s newspaper to one report for an entire county is not going to work out. That is math.
Larger newspapers like the Des Moines Register used to have a Washington, D.C., bureau to help provide Iowans with information for Iowans straight from elected officials through hard nose reporting. Unfortunately, like other newspapers, dwindling advertising revenues and the power of social media, have axed this ability. Allowing for national news wires to be ran in their newspaper, thus becoming less local and more national.
In addition to these dwindling newspaper revenues and staff, it leads to less focus on holding local governments and local politicians accountable. It is hard to run down a story with only one or two people per department or newspaper. Unfortunately, social media values speed and not accuracy so there is more pressure to put content out than making sure the content is perfectly correct. The economics for the truth are out of order.
Supporting local newspapers like the Sun Courier and North Tama Telegraph through subscription or promoting it to those who do not subscribe, instills a sense of community pride, and helps keep the stories local and relevant. It is easier to get “facts” from social media, but the newspaper will allow elected officials and those of all stripes to be held accountable with the real “facts.”
Despite television shows and films best attempt at making one thinking reporting is a high paying job, it is not. It is a demanding, low wage job, but a necessary job for a functioning democracy. People deserve the truth, and the newspaper provides it. At the very least, everyone deserves local stories. Once local newspapers are gone like the Traer Star-Clipper, it is never coming back. The death of local news leads to a vacuum filled by people with agendas who tell you what you want to hear but not what you need to hear. This is makes America more divided. Like everything else, buy local. Your country depends on you.
Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.