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bill utter

BY Bill Utter

July 15, 2019

Public Affairs

You’d be hard pressed to find two places more different than Youngstown, Ohio and Miami, Florida. One is a struggling industrial city, the other a tropical melting pot of cultures. But in recent days both cities were united in an unlikely way by providing visible evidence on the state of journalism in America, both good and bad.

In Youngstown, the family that has owned the daily newspaper for 150 years announced it was shutting down operations at the end of August. There could be a last-minute buyer for The Vindicator, if not the city will say goodbye to an institution that could not survive the digital age.

In Miami, a triumph of investigative reporting by the Miami Herald and reporter Julie K. Brown. Her dogged pursuit of Jeffrey Epstein ultimately led to new charges of sex trafficking against him after the botched prosecution more than a decade ago. In a rare acknowledgement a federal prosecutor said the new charges against Epstein were “assisted by some excellent investigative journalism.”

Here on display is both the precarious economic position that confronts news organizations, as well as the breathtaking power of a single reporter in a relentless search for the truth.

In Chicago, we are fortunate to still have two daily newspapers, as well extensive online and broadcast media outlets covering Chicago and Illinois. But none of these outlets has been spared from brutal downsizing and struggles to stay in business.

There are positive signs in the journalism community here. After the abrupt closing of DNAInfo, a new neighborhood news site blockclubchicago.org has emerged with reporters across the city, joining many other niche news sites that cover schools, government and more. There could be more resources for local reporting if former Tribune editor Jim O’Shea’s latest venture CityXones helps build sustainable economic models for news outlets. There’s even the century-old Better Government Association that is pouring resources into investigative reporting.

But there is no substitute for the impact and importance of major citywide news operations with the resources to remain viable. We can support those operations in small but meaningful ways. Subscribe to the ones you read. It’s only a latte a week to get past the paywalls. If you read something you like, share it across your networks. Those clicks matter, and it helps define what is “real news” in this fractured culture.

There are no easy answers, but we are all better off with more Julie K. Browns on the job.

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bill utter

BY Bill Utter

July 15, 2019

Public Affairs