The argument over the coastal concentration and bias of journalists has been litigated again this week, this time over flat roads and almond milk.
Like many of these arguments, it began with a tweet from a Politico reporter who was providing her hot takes on the state of Iowa.
Observations from Iowa – it is very flat, driving is monotonous, there is more unbuilt land in one block than NYC has in an entire borough, dirt roads are terrifying, no one carries almond milk and caucus-goers are extremely well-informed.
— Sally Goldenberg (@SallyGold) May 18, 2019
This prompted the usual backlash of complaints about how East Coast media does not do a good job representing Middle America in their reporting.
However, Middle America seemingly took the reporter’s comments well. In fact, a clothing company native to the region, Raygun, began a t-shirt run of t-shirts making fun of the incident.
The media controversy caused by this eventually led to local coverage in the Des Moines Register. Iowan journalist Courtney Crowder managed to get Sally Goldenberg, the Politico reporter who started this controversy, to apologize, after Courtenay wrote her feelings on the general incident.
Literally everyone has almond milk, coconut milk and oat milk https://t.co/DWMSco2FqJ
— Lyz Lenz (@lyzl) May 18, 2019
What the complaints about almond milk swilling reporters ignore is that these views are merely a symptom of the decline of journalism jobs in general. When reporters from local newsrooms are laid-off or fired, it is unlikely that another local newsroom or a national newsroom will step in to cover the region, leading to a blind spot in reporting. This blind spot has been proven to be detrimental to good governance and local information ecosystems.
CityLab noted that when local newsrooms are cut, voter turnout suffers as the local population is less informed of local politics. The Manhattan Institute also noted that when these local newsrooms lose reporters, they tend to lose the older, more experienced ones, leading to a loss of institutional knowledge that is difficult to reaccumulate.
This year has been a particularly bad year for journalism jobs in general, as both local, national, and digital outlets have been suffering from major cuts.
According to Business Insider, GateHouse media laid off 50 people at the start of May after it laid off 60 people back in January.
The people laid off were from all across the country, reported by Poynter. The layoffs ranged from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in Massachusetts to the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama.
GateHouse media in practice is a holding company for many daily and weekly newspapers across the United States. According to GateHouse, they manage 156 daily newspapers and 328 weekly newspapers. While these papers aren’t large, they are essential for on-the-ground reporting of the critical local and regional issues that major newspapers may not cover. The loss of these jobs means that local and regional issues in the regions which had cuts are likely to be ignored.
With more and more jobs being cut, the news deserts of America only continue to grow larger. A news desert according to CJR is a county that does not have a local daily news outlet.
Just at the start of the month, the entire Times-Picayune staff was laid off after the paper was sold to a digital-only competitor. 161 people in total were laid off as a result of this particular merger.
Digital media has also been hit hard this year.
Since the start of the year, Buzzfeed, Vice, New York Media, and many other digital outlets cut hundreds of jobs each.