A project of Democracy Fund
The Local News Lab has been archived as of March 1, 2023. This page will remain online but will not be updated. More info.

April 15, 2020

Journalism is an essential service during the pandemic. We must fund it like one.

Hand-drawn families and houses with a coronavirus depiction. https://pixabay.com/photos/coronavirus-corona-quarantine-4939242/
Illustration by Conger Design

Over the past month, 30 states have made journalism an essential service in their disaster declarations, putting local news outlets on par with hospitals and grocery stores. It makes sense: local news is how we find out about stay at home orders and whether our nearby hospital has tests available. It lets us know which grocery stores are holding senior hours, which schools are delivering hot lunches, and how to get help with rent and mortgage payments. And it powers the work of infectious disease detectives, who refer to local reporting as “the bedrock” of their work tracking the spread of illnesses across the country.

Nearly eight in ten Americans are following coronavirus news closely. And they’re getting more than just news: Chalkbeat built maps of all the places New Jersey families can get free meals during school closures; the Charlotte Journalism Collective created a phone tree to check in on people who may not have internet access; El Migrante distributed papers to migrant shelters with information on coronavirus prevention and shelter healthcare options; and Outlier Media in Detroit took residents’ coronavirus questions via text. Local newsrooms are clearly going above and beyond to help their communities.

But there is a troubling irony to this moment: The coronavirus — while creating a need for strong local news — has ignited an economic crisis that could wipe out huge swaths of journalism in America.


Read more on how Democracy Fund and our partners are responding at democracyfund.org.