DOCUMENTARY: UNTOLD TIMES
Untold Times is a short documentary on my personal experience growing up in a town that transformed into a rural news desert. My parents had gotten the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Las Vegas Sun and the Tonopah Times Bonanza delivered to the house as long as I could remember. The earliest hint I had that newspapers were declining was when the Reno Gazette-Journal and then the Las Vegas Sun stopped delivering to Tonopah. The Tonopah Times Bonanza was bought and managed under the Pahrump Valley Times in 2015. At that time the reporter, David Jacobs, became the local reporter. Though he was new to the community, all the citizens I talked to said that he was a great asset to the community and did a great job. When Jacobs left in 2017, his position was never filled.
Though there is still a paper in Tonopah, there are times when the team of four reporters that the Pahrump Valley Times employs to cover a large majority of Nye County doesn’t have the time or resources to travel and cover all the stories in Tonopah. Town board meetings and school board meetings aren’t regularly covered, and there are times when the citizens of Tonopah say that there is so little local news left in their paper that it isn’t worth reading anymore.
I had graduated high school and left to attend college in Reno in 2016, so this was all happening as I was studying journalism at the University of Nevada. As I went through my education I learned about the downfall of local journalism as we were moving from the height of newspapers to the beginning of digital media. The services provided by newspapers—business advertising, announcements of employment opportunities, and general community information— could be provided to people for free with the advancement of the Internet. There is less money in advertising which results in a smaller newsroom, less resources to cover stories, and widespread shutdowns and buyouts of newspapers. The lack of reporting in a community results in less democratic engagement, more government corruption and a loss of community connection.
As I entered grad school I began to wonder how rural communities fit into this local news crisis, particularly in Nevada, which is a primarily rural state. As local newsrooms shut down or become less useful to their communities, how would places that did not have the amount of resources or people of urban communities transition? And what are the factors in play?
In short, what are the consequences of rural areas not having access to local news? And what are the solutions? What does the future hold, not only for rural communities, but journalism as a whole?