Local news in local hands

Sometimes a plant may die in part because it is in polluted soil. If you put it in new soil, with new fertilizer, it may thrive.  We believe that many newspapers suffer from the same problem – they are hindered from succeeding because of factors that go beyond their core business model challenges. Some are owned by hedge funds or big chains. Others were created through mergers financed with huge amounts of debt, which forces the paper to perpetually cut staff to make interest payments.

So in 2020, in a paper for the Center for Journalism and Liberty, we proposed a “replanting strategy” – a series of ideas that would help communities take over newspapers.

We later proposed a series of tax incentives, for both sellers and buyers, to help facilitate a wave of replantings. These might be coupled with other steps, like stronger antitrust enforcement.

Recently, other organizations have begun to take action too. The National Trust for Local News, for instance, worked with local stakeholders to buy a chain of newspapers in Colorado that otherwise would have probably been purchased by a hedge fund.