Abstract: Coverage of local politics by U.S. local daily newspapers has dropped substantially over the last two decades. At the same time, online media platforms proliferated and the print newspaper industry consolidated. This paper studies the sources of the decline of local political news. To this end, I build a demand and supply model of the newspaper industry with endogenous local and national news content. The model allows for readers to have heterogenous preferences over newspaper content, for the outside option to reflect the increased media choice over the sample period, and for publishers to exploit cost efficiencies in the production of news. I estimate the model using a novel panel of newspapers' characteristics, local and national political coverage, and ownership information. I find that consolidation of newspapers explains about one third of the declining trend in local political coverage, while changes in readers' demand for print newspapers and preferences for local topics account for the remaining two thirds. In a counterfactual simulation where Gannett, the biggest newspaper conglomerate, acquires all remaining independent newspapers, local news coverage drops by 4 percent.
Abstract: We study differences in access to and engagement with local news media by race and ethnicity. We use data from the Pew Research Center’s Local News Survey, which contains uniquely detailed information on individuals’ self-reported preferences for local news sources, their time spent consuming each source, how closely they follow various news topics, and their attitudes towards the local media. Our descriptive analysis shows large and significant racial and ethnic gaps in engagement in local news, provider choice, and attitudes towards local media. To understand how differences in access to news providers, preferences, socio-demographics, and attitudes towards local media shape these gaps, we develop and estimate a model of consumer behavior that follows the time allocation discrete choice framework. It allows individuals to choose a set of different local news providers while trading off the costs associated with them and the quality and quantity of local news they provide. With the estimated model, we assess the magnitude of these racial and ethnic gaps as we equalize differences in consumer education and income, attitudes towards the media, and provider choices. We also evaluate the impact of policies subsidizing digital media on the observed racial and ethnic gaps in local media consumption.
Work in Progress