Death of the Daily News by Andrew Conte

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Death of the Daily News
How Citizen Gatekeepers Can Save Local Journalism
by Andrew Conte
University of Pittsburgh Press, 176 pp., hardcover $26.00

The internet and digitization have changed the economics of delivering news. Print newspapers in particular, with some exceptions, are struggling to survive. Many already haven’t. Small towns and rural areas have been especially hard hit. Communities have lost long-established newspapers that once upon a time kept their readers reliably informed and served as social glue by conveying a sense of local identity.

If you are alarmed by our country’s dangerously fractured politics and lack of social cohesion, you can add diminishing local news coverage, print in particular, to the list of factors that may bear some responsibility.

Andrew Conte, founder of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, explores today’s media dilemma in a new book, Death of the Daily News. It uses as a case study the demise of the daily newspaper in McKeesport, Allegheny County.

“Few residents of McKeesport seemed to fully realize in that moment, on the morning of New Year’s Day 2016, exactly what they were losing when the Daily News closed,” Conte writes. “They would come to discover the depths of that loss over the coming years not only as they started to feel less informed about the events happening in their community but also as they acknowledged growing distances among each other, and, perhaps most surprising of all, a lost sense of who they are.”

Conte discusses possible responses, highlighting the development of “citizen gatekeepers” to vet local information, using social media and other tools. He notes the limitations of such nonprofessional efforts — personal bias, lack of accuracy, incomplete accounts — yet is encouraged. “People like to share their opinions, but few of them deliberately want to get their facts wrong: they just need the resources — education, guidelines, and practice — to start separating verified and relevant news from gossip, lies, and bias.”

Don Sarvey
Editorial Enterprises