There’s a New York Times article about the fleecing of small-town America.
The article covers the fate of The Mercury newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. But to me, the story’s more than the destruction of a local paper.
Alden Global Capital is a hedge fund that owns The Mercury. During its ownership, the newspaper’s shrunk to one reporter, Evan Brandt. He shuffles around town in his Toyota Corolla, reporting on school board meetings and other local happenings.
The article, by Dan Barry, highlights the plight of small-town newspapers and asks what happens to our society when we lose local news?
In my mom’s case, you turn to Facebook.
Her local newspaper, where I once worked as a reporter, is no longer a reliable local information source. She instead checks Facebook to find out what’s happening in her community.
Journalists aren’t sharing updates on Facebook, but friends, family members, and neighbors are. And that’s a problem.
Even the best-intentioned among them aren’t checking facts, using multiple sources, or presenting different perspectives when they share a news update. That’s what reporters do. But your Facebook friends are, more often than not, not trained journalists.
Which means mom gets her local news from unreliable sources. And she does so within a platform that makes money by selling to advertisers access to her eyeballs.
Local newspapers failing to serve their communities creates opportunities for behemoths such as Facebook. The social media company based in Menlo Park, Calif., makes money off my mom in rural Missouri.
But that’s not the only way in which small-town America gets fleeced these days. A New York City-based hedge fund owning local newspapers is.
The fleecing of Small Town, U.S.A.
According to Dan Barry’s New York Times article, Alden Global Capital improves its profit margins by making cuts to its newspapers. That’s how The Mercury ended up with one reporter and no office. The hedge fund reduced the paper’s staff and sold its building.
And what happens to the money that Alden Global Capital makes from newspapers such as The Mercury? Most of it leaves the local communities.
Outside of Evan Brandt’s salary and costs for printing The Mercury’s physical edition, Alden Global Capital puts little money back into Pottstown, Pa. Instead, subscribers’ and advertisers’ dollars go from Pottstown to the New York City hedge fund.
The rich get richer. Cities reap rewards at the expense of small towns. It’s a modern-day feudal system in which rural Americans’ money ends up in the pockets of companies hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Facebook makes money off my mom in rural Missouri. Alden Global Capital makes money off Pottstown residents. And neither rural Missouri nor Pottstown receive significant, if any, amounts of that cash.
Local news’ disappearance across this country is alarming for many reasons, some of which Dan Barry covers in his article. What Barry doesn’t mention, which I see, is that America’s local media landscape is another proof point of how we take from small towns to fund our gleaming cities.
The rich get richer. While for news, rural folks log onto Facebook.
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