How Local Journalism Overcomes Political Divides

Haley Maser, Views Editor

Presidential elections have been a source of conflict and misinformation in the United States since their conception, however, the 2016 election ushered in a new age of division in America that will undoubtedly carry over into 2020. In his time, President John Adams stated, “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in a hundred years before 1798,” which, as the Smithsonian Magazine points out, strikingly resembles sentiments that are expressed in this modern era.[1] Fake news is no recent phenomenon, but current elections have brought the partisanship of national news companies and their owners to light. Unwavering bias in the news leads to ignorant citizens and belligerent voters. However, local journalism is a source for consumers that portrays a less one-sided narrative.

The bias of major news companies has monumental effects on consumers and their opinions. In 2018, only six companies were found to control the majority of American media.[2] These corporations are owned by a small group of powerful people, each with their own political agenda, and they are highly influential. Together, Fox News and CNN accumulated 3.57 million viewers in 2019, and they are notorious for their reputations as being tremendously biased.[3] When each news source’s coverage of a 2016 presidential debate was compared, the differences were striking. Fox News focused their coverage on Donald Trump and replayed a clip of him clapping back at his opponent, while CNN’s most-played clip was of Hilary Clinton articulating a point against Trump.[4] Many mainstream news sources follow the same pattern, having a clear political bias and sparking intense conflicts between each other. An issue that arises from companies having a defined stance is that consumers can seek out the opinionated news that they want to read. Never being exposed to information from the disagreeing side of an issue perpetuates the closed-mindedness and hostility of society, which is especially dangerous during an election.

In spite of this ‘fake’ news pandemic, local journalism should be a source that readers consider. Local journalism functions to serve a community instead of a political party. Reporting on local issues that do not coincide with the right or left side can show citizens that they have certain bipartisan beliefs during a polarizing election. Studies have shown that voters in a community where a local newspaper has closed are less likely to vote for a president and senator of differing parties.[5] Furthermore, when electing to read the local news, selecting articles with a certain bias is not an option. Instead of only consuming information from the political party the consumers identify with, the local news will provide them with stories that affect their entire community, and more effectively portray both sides of an issue. Exposure to unbiased news and the ability to respect another person’s perspective facilitates amicable discussion that can truly transform the hostile dynamic of presidential elections.



[1] Mansky, Jackie. “The Age-Old Problem of ‘Fake News.'” Smithsonian Magazine, 7 May 2018, Accessed 20 Jan. 2020.

[2] Rapp, Nicolas Rapp, and Aric Jenkins. “Chart: These 6 Companies Control Much of U.S. Media.” Fortune, 24 July 2018, Accessed 25 Jan. 2020.

[3] Andreeva, Nellie, and Ted Johnson. “Cable Ratings 2019: Fox News Tops Total Viewers, ESPN Wins 18-49 Demo As Entertainment Networks Slide.” Deadline, 27 Dec. 2019, Accessed 25 Jan. 2020.

[4] McGill, Andrew. “The Different Ways Fox, MSNBC, and CNN Recapped Monday’s Debate.” The Atlantic, 29 Sept. 2016, Accessed 27 Jan. 2020.

[5] Darr, Joshua P., et al. “Want to reduce political polarization? Save your local newspaper.” Nieman Lab, 11 Feb. 2019, Accessed 4 Feb. 2020.