Local news organizations across the United States are in crisis. Since 2004, a quarter of all metro and community newspapers in the country have closed or merged, leaving many regions without any access to local news reporting (1). This trend of consolidation in news media has meant that the stories of most importance to local communities are often going untold while partisanship (2), polarization (3), and misinformation fill the vacuum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. Indeed, now more than ever, New Yorkers are in need of access to local, reliable journalism to keep them informed of the pandemic’s effects on their communities. THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit, digital news platform launched in April 2019, has valiantly assumed this task.
THE CITY, free without a subscription, is dedicated to restoring local news to New York City. By utilizing traditional beat coverage, THE CITY produces consistent accountability reporting that brings previously untold stories back to New York City’s local news cycle.
With support from SNF, THE CITY reports stories that represent the diverse and vibrant communities in all five boroughs, with a focus on the critical issues facing legal and education systems, as well as those pertaining to policing, immigration, and housing. And recently, THE CITY’s reporting has covered all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming a vital resource for New Yorkers. For instance, at the height of the pandemic, THE CITY’s daily newsletter provided links to resources for New Yorkers, including free meal programs, ways to support hospitals, and THE CITY’s very own guide on how to move forward after beating COVID-19. In its short lifetime, THE CITY has quickly become a source New Yorkers rely on, not only for COVID-19-related coverage, but for all stories of local concern.
THE CITY’s unique approach gives its reporting a personal touch and generates a sense of community among New Yorkers. This approach is exemplified by THE CITY’s "Missing Them" campaign, a beautiful tribute in response to the tragic loss of life from the pandemic that tells the stories of over 1,000 New Yorkers and counting lost to COVID-19.
SNF Program Officer, New York
Sources and further reading
- “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?” a report from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media
- “Hundreds of hyperpartisan sites are masquerading as local news. This map shows if there’s one near you.” from the Nieman Journalism Lab
- “Want to reduce political polarization? Save your local newspaper” from the Nieman Journalism Lab
- "Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy" by Margaret Sullivan, from Columbia Global Reports