Let’s strengthen local reporting by 50,000 new journalists.

COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW — February 28, 2022 — In 2004, the number of newspaper newsroom staff topped 71,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then, it has declined by more than half. If we want to make up that loss, we’d need to add back about 41,000 newsroom staff.

But that’s not quite right. We don’t actually know precisely how many local reporters there are. The BLS “newspaper newsroom” staff data comprises national as well as local reporters, and includes some jobs, such as movie reviewers and restaurant critics, that we don’t really need to save local democracy. The data is specific to print newsrooms, so it doesn’t account for the addition of local, digital-only reporters since 2004. Nor does it account for population growth, increased government spending at the state and local levels, or the rise of misinformation engines—dynamics that, as I wrote previously, should figure into any efforts to strengthen local journalism.

Our goal should be to create a better local news system than we had in the past, including far better service for communities of color and for rural areas. To make that local news system a reality, I believe that we need to add 50,000 local reporters

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