News Deserts are a Threat to Public Health
Hey there—We have known for years how detrimental “news deserts” can be for democracy, and it is now more clear than ever: news deserts are dangerous for public health. When the pandemic struck, people needed health information more than ever before. National publications are crucial, but what is happening close to home is just as important.
The more we know about how the virus is evolving, the more questions arise. The capacity of local hospitals, vaccination rates, and mask mandates in schools all have a direct impact on local communities and the information surrounding these subjects needs to be readily available.
Since 2004 nearly a quarter of all newspapers in the country have been eliminated. Smaller papers and publications do not have the capabilities to keep up with the digital ad dollars that tech giants like Facebook and Google spend and if they can afford to keep their doors open, the majority of their staff has been laid off. News deserts see lower voter turnout, fewer contested elections, and more polarizing local politics and now also 80% of news desert counties fall behind their state’s rate of fully vaccinated adults. Not only are news deserts a threat to democracy, but now they’re a threat to public health too.