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News Deserts

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One of the many challenges American democracy faces is the complete hollowing out of local media:

School board and city council meetings are going uncovered. Overstretched reporters receive promising tips about stories but have no time to follow up. Newspapers publish fewer pages or less frequently or, in hundreds of cases across the country, are shuttered completely.

All of this has added up to a crisis in local news coverage in the United States that has frayed communities and left many Americans woefully uninformed, according to a report by PEN America released on Wednesday.

“A vibrant, responsive democracy requires enlightened citizens, and without forceful local reporting they are kept in the dark,” the report said. “At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared fact-based discourse on the issues that most directly affect us is more essential and more elusive than ever.”

The report, “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions,” paints a grim picture of the state of local news in every region of the country. The prelude is familiar to journalists: As print advertising revenue has plummeted, thousands of newspapers have been forced to cut costs, reduce their staffs or otherwise close.


In essence, powerful reactionary interests can mostly expect gridlock at worst (with allies in the judiciary) at the federal level where politics will still be covered, while their ability to influence state and local politics will only increase as the amount of information the public receives will shrink. It’s a very serious problem.

Speaking of our reactionary monopolists:

President Donald Trump hosted a previously undisclosed dinner with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook board member Peter Thiel at the White House in October, the company told NBC News on Wednesday.

The meeting took place during Zuckerberg’s most recent visit to Washington, where he testified before Congress about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency Libra. Zuckerberg also gave a speech at Georgetown University the week before, detailing his company’s commitment to free speech, and its resistance to calls for the company to crack down on misinformation in political ads.

Facebook confirmed the meeting to NBC News on Wednesday.

“As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

A source familiar with the dinner told NBC News that Thiel was also present. It is unclear why the meeting was not made public or what Trump, Zuckerberg and Thiel discussed.

And why not — Zuckerberg and Thiel were very helpful to Trump in 2016 and there is every reason to expect more of the same in 2020.

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