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  • Cited by 26
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2021
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Book description

In recent decades, turnout in US presidential elections has soared, education levels have hit historic highs, and the internet has made information more accessible than ever. Yet over that same period, Americans have grown less engaged with local politics and elections. Drawing on detailed analysis of fifteen years of reporting in over 200 local newspapers, along with election returns, surveys, and interviews with journalists, this study shows that the demise of local journalism has played a key role in the decline of civic engagement. As struggling newspapers have slashed staff, they have dramatically cut their coverage of mayors, city halls, school boards, county commissions, and virtually every aspect of local government. In turn, fewer Americans now know who their local elected officials are, and turnout in local elections has plummeted. To reverse this trend and preserve democratic accountability in our communities, the local news industry must be reinvigorated – and soon.


Winner, 2023 Goldsmith Book Prize, Academic Title, Harvard Kennedy School


‘Democracy depends on informed citizens – and for generations, America's rich landscape of local newspapers was an unparalleled source of information on state and local politics. So when media markets transform and local newspapers cut way back on their coverage of state and local issues, the threat to subnational democracy is acute. In an analysis that is at once sobering and compelling, Hayes and Lawless use a wealth of data to show precisely how deep the cuts to local political coverage have been – and how those cuts have in turn reduced Americans' engagement in local politics. This book is written with a style, voice, and urgency that means that you need to read not just your local newspaper but this book from cover to cover.'

Daniel Hopkins - University of Pennsylvania

‘Two recent parallel trends bode ill for the vitality of grassroots democracy: the precipitous slump of voter participation in local elections and news coverage of candidates and issues. By exhaustively tracking and quantifying these dual declines, the authors of News Hole demonstrate their interconnectedness. News Hole is a scholarly work that yields new and valuable insights for political scientists and journalists, as well as ordinary citizens passionate about nurturing civic engagement.'

Penelope Muse Abernathy - author of News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?

‘For those who still question why the decline of local journalism matters, this book provides the answer, through a series of clear and compelling studies that show how democracy suffers as local journalism deteriorates. And, not content to just sound the alarm, Hayes and Lawless explore a key solution path – resuscitating audience demand for local news.'

Philip Michael Napoli - Duke University

‘This impressive book should interest researchers in many fields, particularly political science and communication, as well as journalists and others seeking an approachable treatment of what the demise of local media means for politics.’

Erik Peterson Source: Public Opinion Quarterly

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