Save democracy– subscribe to a local newspaper

As you know, I’m a huge fan of local newspapers and very much of the belief that their decline is truly bad for democracy because it is really bad for accountable governance.  Jennifer Victor wrote a post about what citizens should do to protect democracy and Jonathan Bernstein took it up a notch.  This was my favorite part:

Political scientist Jennifer Victor has three suggestions to strengthen democracy: She asks everyone to vote, to build community and to read. Great suggestions, and an excellent topic.

But I’m not sure I agree with her that the ways to build democracy are either very large — she talks about system-level reforms such as changing the way that members of the House are apportioned — or very small. Healthy democracy in the U.S., when it works, is participatory; while American citizens don’t have a particularly strong record of voting, they do tend to actively engage in politics more than people in most other large democracies do. So I think I’ll recommend slightly more involved, and more explicitly political, actions for folks who want to support democracy but don’t quite know where to start…

  • Subscribe. All three of my suggestions overlap with Victor’s, and she does suggest subscribing to a local newspaper as one form of reading. But for this bullet point, I don’t actually care if you read at all. Subscribe to your local newspaper. If you can afford it, subscribe or donate to any other local news outlet. Maybe you can get a subscription for a friend or family member, or maybe you have a non-local sports team you want to follow, or maybe you pick it at random. Doesn’t matter. It’s the single best nonpartisan investment in the future of the republic you can make. Whatever the threat to democracy at the national level, at the subnational level the greatest danger is the possibility of a future without reporting on state and local politics and government — a future that in many places is depressingly far along. Of course, once you pay, feel free to keep up on local news. But even if you don’t, you can still support it for everybody else, including politicians, bureaucrats, interest groups and others who will feel far more pressure to avoid corruption and other misbehavior if they know that there are reporters watching.

Yes, this, so much this.  Seriously, even if you don’t read it, subscribing to your local newspaper is literally doing an important and meaningful service to democracy.  Also, you should actually care about and learn about what’s going on in your state and local community!  It’s not all just budget reconciliation drama in DC :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Save democracy– subscribe to a local newspaper

  1. LiziRose says:

    One thing I like about the editor of my local newspaper. he says “If I’m getting hate mail from ‘both sides’ then I know I’m doing something right”. He does get a lot of nasty letters to the editor . People are very polarized in my town. Well, now I’m going to renew my subscription since it’s contributing to democracy 🙂

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