NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – If you remember the Albuquerque Tribune, you’re old enough to remember when local news was in a different era. Now, across the nation, news desks have consolidated, papers have been canceled, and many states, including New Mexico, face so-called news deserts.
The latest report from Northwester University’s Local News Initiative shows there are 204 counties across the nation with no local news outlets. They count five counties in New Mexico with no local news sources – either print or digital.
Catron, Torrance, Roosevelt, Harding, and Mora County are among the news deserts around the U.S., the data shows. And many other counties in New Mexico have just minimal coverage.
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Data from the Local News Initiative shows that many counties have few local news outlets.
Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis has been part of keeping news coverage going in some of the smaller communities in New Mexico. He bought four smaller-circulation papers, the Edgewood Independent, two papers in Sandoval County, and The Paper in Albuquerque. His strategy to keep the news alive is to share resources among outlets and also bring a digital element to formerly paper-only outlets.
“We’re really focused on finding local community papers that have had a long history with their community, that have been in business and are looking to sort of pass on to the next generation,” Davis explains. “It’s usually a mom-and-pop shop or a single-person shop, who founded this paper 30 or 40 years ago, who’s looking for somebody to keep it going.”
“All of these are sort of the only local news options in their community. But they really haven’t had a digital presence,” Davis says. “And so what we’re trying to do is to think about the next generation, not just of ownership of these papers so that we don’t lose them, but [also] the next generation of how to bring new readers to these papers that have a long history of print.”
Davis says the local papers are vital to communities. They provide accessible, affordable advertising space for local businesses as well as local reporting that simply doesn’t come from any other news outlets, he says.
“From a practical standpoint, Albuquerque ‘big news’ outlets don’t cover Moriarty, Edgewood, or Bernalillo, because they’re not there. And they’re busy with lots of other news here in the big city. And so, if somebody local doesn’t do it, it just doesn’t get covered,” Davis says. And without coverage of hyper-local issues, there’s an increased risk of corruption, he says.
While no one can deny that local news offerings have shrunk over the years, Davis remains relatively optimistic that New Mexicans will continue to have access to local news through the expansion of digital outlets. And while he continues focusing on local papers, the New Mexico Local News Fund also continues to support New Mexico.