The Future of Local News in New York City

Ford, Sam; Ali, Christopher

US-based reporting jobs are increasingly concentrated within a small number of major metropolitan areas, driven by digital journalism outlets, according to research over the past few years from media analysts like Joshua Benton at Harvard’s Nieman Lab and Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty of Politico. As for cities where journalism jobs still flourish, New York City is atop that list. According to a 2015 analysis by Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post, the number of reporting jobs in New York basically held steady in the years between 2004 and 2014, while the number of reporting jobs outside that city, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., dropped by 25 percent in the same time period.

However, the proliferation of new, often unstable digital journalism hiring booms in the largest city in the US has masked just how dire the situation is for local reporting. Paul Moses illustrated this aptly in a 2017 piece for The Daily Beast, based on research for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Urban Reporting Program, highlighting a lack of any dedicated reporter covering Queens County courts (which would be the nation’s fourth largest city if it stood on its own). He wrote, “The problem for local news coverage is the simple fact that a story aimed at a national audience is likelier to generate heavy web traffic than a local one. Original local news reporting is threatened not only by layoffs but by the transfer of jobs to writing on whatever is of interest to a national web audience.”

This common concern for the troubling state of local news in New York City led the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and WNYC to convene an off-the-record roundtable discussion focused on The Future of Local News on February 9, 2018, at the Columbia University School of Journalism.

The goal of the discussion was to bring together a select group of journalists, publishers, academics, funders, public-sector representatives, and other experts to discuss how to reverse the crisis in poorly resourced New York local media and work toward innovative solutions to ensure a sustainable future for local news.

The half-day roundtable took place in the morning and comprised a closed discussion built around three major questions: 1) What is the state of local journalism in New York City at the beginning of 2018? 2) What trends and emerging business models in local news across the US
and internationally might we be able to learn from? 3)Where do we go from here? What are possible futures for local media in
New York?

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University
Tow Center for Digital Journalism Publications
Published Here
May 14, 2018