The Importance of Local Journalism in an Age of Declining Trust in Media

Will local news ever be trustworthy again?

That's the question Kelly McBride posed to a group of print, broadcast and digital journalists at the Institute's first town hall event on Nov. 17. An ethics adviser to newsrooms around the world and National Public Radio's Public Editor, Kelly moderated a lively discussion with five panelists and fielded questions from the audience about the importance of what she called a natural, but delicate, journalism ecosystem.

"When it's mostly healthy, the stronger parts can compensate for the weaker areas. But disease and rot can spread," Kelly told an in-person crowd of more than 150 students, faculty, staff and members of the general public who gathered in the Power Center ballroom.

Panelists included:

  • Luis Fabregas, editor of the Tribune-Review
  • Lynne Hayes-Freeland, KDKA radio personality
  • Mila Sanina, executive director of PublicSource
  • Josh Taylor, KDKA-TV sports reporter, anchor and producer
  • Dr. Pamela E. Walck, associate professor of multiplatform journalism at Duquesne University.

The Evolution of Journalism

Kelly claimed that several events in the last two decades have had a compounding, cascading effect on journalism, including:

  • The proliferation of opinion-based information,
  • The ubiquity of social media and other algorithmic feeds,
  • The ease with which malicious actors can exploit those harmful algorithms to spread false and distorted information, and
  • The rerouting of 90% of the global ad revenue to Google and Facebook.

"We may have more information," she said. "But because of the way it is delivered to us, many of us struggle to know what's true, what's a distortion and what's completely made up."

How to Strengthen Local News

She suggests the answer to this problem is to strengthen local news, which includes the following:

  • The financial equation for local news must change,
  • Individuals must subscribe to a commercial product or public media or a non-profit,
  • Local media outlets should stop competing with each other and start collaborating, and
  • Local news organizations need to also transform their own work and get closer to their communities.

Missed the event? Watch the video.