“Give Thanks for Local Journalism”

From a November 2020 column in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Jim Friedlich headlined “Give thanks for local journalism”:

It is worth asking why professionally reported, fact-based local journalism is so valuable to our community and to our democracy, what we can all do to help protect it, and what is at stake should it disappear. On this last point, sadly we do not have far to look for answers.

Since 2004, the United States has lost one-fourth – 2,100 – of its newspapers. This includes 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies or non-dailies. Left in their wake are communities large and small with no coverage of local government, schools, or healthcare. Misinformation and disinformation has proliferated in the place of trusted local news, targeting the very topics we hold most dear– how to protect the health of our families and the integrity of our voting systems and our democracy. Political dialogue has become more shrill and communities’ sense of themselves have suffered or evaporated. No news is bad news.

Philadelphia is now the largest city in America whose flagship local news organization is owned by a community-supported, non-profit organization and dedicated solely to serving the people of the region. Since its 2016 donation by H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest to the non-profit Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Inquirer — especially its important watchdog journalism — has been supported by a broad array of local donors and foundations, as well as by everyone of us who subscribes to or advertises in the newspaper in print and online.

With this support, The Inquirer fielded by far the largest 2020 elections team in Pennsylvania, at one stage deploying over 60 reporters, data journalists, editors, photographers and videographers on the story….

We thank the thousands of donors and tens of thousands of subscribers to The Philadelphia Inquirer, from across the region and political spectrum. And we give thanks to every reader who has written a letter to the editor, served as a story source, or participated otherwise in the free and open civic dialogue on which our country was founded.

The First Amendment was ratified here in Philadelphia over 230 years ago. But recent history has taught us that the First Amendment in no way guarantees that an independent press has the resources it needs to support the freedoms for which we are all so very thankful. That’s up to the rest of us.

Jim Friedlich is the executive director and CEO of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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