NEWS DESERTS IN NEVADA
“For more than two centuries, newspaper editors and reporters, more often than not, served as arbiters of our news, determining what made front-page headlines read by millions of people in this country. They were the prime, if not sole, source of credible and comprehensive news and information, especially for residents in small and mid-sized communities.”
—Penelope Muse Abernathy, American journalist and author who specializes in news deserts
Local news is going through a time of transformation. The rise of the Internet led to a shift in how we communicate. Traditional print newspapers that had gotten a majority of their revenue from advertisers failed to adapt to a market that offered advertisers a free, wide-reaching platform. Readers who subscribed to the print newspaper began to get information online for free. Classified ads were replaced by Craigslist, editorials by social media, and within two decades the traditional commercial model of journalism no longer generated revenue to the level newsrooms had become accustomed to. Newsrooms cut staff, operated on lesser resources, or eventually closed down all together. Rural communities, which relied on print newspapers for consistent local coverage, suffered from the loss of their newspaper. A lack of local information can result in higher government corruption, less civic engagement, and less informed voters. However, while the traditional commercial revenue model has failed, other revenue models are emerging. Technology has even allowed journalists to expand storytelling in ways that could have never been possible otherwise.
Often when we discuss news deserts, there seems to be a lack of context on geography and community. As visitors of this website you will be given a comprehensive view of what news deserts look like in rural Nevada, from a former resident's perspective to geographic context. You will also be given a look at the consequences of not having a local news source and the solutions being discussed and practiced among news outlets today.
WHAT IS A NEWS DESERT?
According to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, a news desert is "a community...with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at a grassroots level." In the context of this project, the term news desert refers to a community without a cohesive source of local news in the form of a local newspaper.
WHAT IS A GHOST NEWSPAPER?
Daily or weekly newspapers that have either been bought or not given enough resources and become "ghosts" of what they once were.
While radio and television play a critical role in the health of local journalism, cover important issues facing rural communities, and are able to broadcast a great distance, unless the radio or television station is based within a community, it is difficult to provide the regular local information that a small town newspaper provides. This is due to time, resources and lack of staffing, common problems among current newsrooms nationally in the United States. Newspapers are often the primary source of information for small, rural communities.
Nevada is the eighth least densely populated state in the United States on a fifty-two state scale (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). According to a 2017 study on rural health by the University of Nevada, Reno, "9.7% of Nevada's population reside in the state's rural and frontier counties. The rural and frontier population spreads over 95,431 square miles or 86.9% of the state's land mass." Rural communities are among the groups most devastated by the local news crisis. Though the other 90.3% of Nevadans live in urban communities, the health of the state as a whole is important. Nevadans with a healthy news diet can make more informed decisions on state elections, are more civically engaged and are more aware of government corruption.