A Vivid MRI of Local News in America

The 2023 State of Local News Report sheds light on the crisis and offers solutions

For the past 15 years, the spread of news deserts across the United States has been meticulously tracked by Medill’s Penny Abernathy. This local news crisis has slowly but surely taken hold, affecting communities from suburbs to rural areas. The annual State of Local News Project, led by Tim Franklin, aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the health of local news, offering valuable data, insights, and context to journalists, media leaders, policymakers, philanthropists, and scholars.

But this year, the project’s ambition has grown. The 2023 State of Local News Report seeks to go beyond diagnosing the current condition of local news. It aims to act as a genetic test, utilizing predictive modeling to identify areas at risk of becoming news deserts and providing an opportunity to address these risks in advance. This forward-looking approach not only highlights the loss of news but also showcases local news startups and successful news organizations that offer hope for the future.

Mapping the Crisis and Identifying Risks

The report features two crucial maps: the “Watch List” and the “Local News Ecosystem Barometer.” Developed by Medill data scientists, researchers, and journalism faculty, these maps provide a visual representation of the state of local news. The “Watch List” identifies the 204 counties that are currently news deserts, lacking newspapers, local digital sites, public radio newsrooms, or ethnic publications. Additionally, the report identifies another 228 counties at substantial risk of becoming news deserts in the near future. This predictive modeling allows community leaders, philanthropists, industry executives, and journalists to take action before an area becomes devoid of local news.

A Holistic Perspective

In an effort to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the local news landscape, the report expands its databases to include not only local newspapers and digital-only sites but also public broadcasting news outlets and ethnic media. This broader perspective sheds light on the various organizations that serve communities and the challenges they face.

The Crisis and the Hope

While the report acknowledges the grim reality of local news loss, it also offers a glimmer of hope. It highlights the emergence of local news startups that are filling the void left by traditional news outlets. These innovative organizations are adapting to the changing media landscape and finding new ways to engage with their communities. By showcasing these success stories, the report aims to inspire others and foster a sense of optimism for the future of local news.

The Role of Local News in Democracy

The 2023 State of Local News Report emphasizes the vital role that local news plays in a healthy democracy. Local news outlets serve as watchdogs, holding local governments accountable and providing crucial information to citizens. Without a robust local news ecosystem, communities are at risk of losing a vital source of information and civic engagement. The report underscores the urgency of addressing the local news crisis to preserve the democratic fabric of American society.


The 2023 State of Local News Report serves as a vivid MRI of local news in America, offering a comprehensive assessment of the crisis and potential solutions. Through predictive modeling, expanded databases, and a focus on hopeful stories, the report provides a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing local news organizations. It is a call to action for community leaders, philanthropists, industry executives, and journalists to come together and support the revival of local news, ensuring the health of our democracy for generations to come.






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