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Mapping America’s news ‘deserts’

[To view map, click here rather than on above image]

The Columbia Journalism Review has taken on the herculean task of mapping which American communities are suffering from a dearth of daily newspapers. This is an important project because even a mediocre newspaper can make big difference in voters learning about local environmental issues.

That said, the media desert map is still a work in progress. For example, as I write this Washington state has a number of inaccuracies:

  • Lewis County is listed as having zero dailies when it has a pretty good paper, The Chronicle.
  • Mason County is listed as having three dailies when none of them are published in that county — and pay much attention to it.
  • Perhaps most oddly, King County — which has one of the biggest dailies on the west coast — has no listing.

A deeper methodological issue is that the presence of a daily isn’t necessarily the only determinant of whether a community receives adequate news coverage. The McClatchy Company has downsized The Olympian to the degree that it is arguably offers weaker news coverage than The Chronicle in Lewis County or The Daily World in Grays Harbor County.

In addition, the presence of good-quality weeklies and monthlies can make a real difference. This is an area where Thurston County has generally been weaker than comparable Pacific Northwest communities such as Bellingham, Eugene (Oregon) and Arcata (California).

The good news about the CJR map is that the magazine’s staff cheerfully ask for updated information and corrections. You can contact them at editors@cjr.org.


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