The People’s Review: LIVE! Keeping it Local: Why Small-Town Journalism Matters to Democracy

September 15, 2020

The decline of local news combined with the explosion of online misinformation is not just a story about a waning industry—it’s a historic economic and cultural disruption that could threaten the viability of our traditional representative democracy.

Join us online Thursday, September 17, at 5 p.m. to hear from a panel of Wyoming journalists and editors as they consider how the nationwide decline in local journalism is hurting democracy, what’s happening here in Wyoming, and what might be done to undo the damage. Register here.

A major PEN America study from 2019 found “as local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens [are] less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” 

“The mission of the Equality State Policy Center is to ensure fair elections, transparent government, and thriving communities,” said Chris Merrill, ESPC’s executive director. “These are the pillars of a viable democracy. They’re the foundation for maintaining our system of government and improving our way of life. Trusted local news sources are essential because they buttress all three of these pillars—they’re one of the institutions that make ESPC’s mission possible.”  

Merrill said this fall, heading into the general election cycle, is the ideal time to interrogate how local and small-town reporting supports and informs civic engagement.  

“Wyoming is rarely on the national radar,” Merrill said. “We rely on steady and robust local reporting to keep the public here informed and engaged on the close-to-home issues affecting our day-to-day lives. Local reporting helps voters make informed decisions and holds elected officials in our state accountable. If our local news outlets aren’t reporting this news, the regional and national outlets are definitely not picking up the slack.” 

The panelists, all based in Wyoming, represent a range of media and ownership structures. Questions will address the current state of news coverage in Wyoming and ways forward for this declining industry. 

Featuring Nick Reynolds, Katie Klingsporn, Tennessee Watson, Mara Abbott and Adam Meyer.

Nick Reynolds

Nick Reynolds is the statehouse reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune and the vice chair of its in-house media union, the Casper News Guild. A native of upstate New York, he is a seven-year veteran of the newspaper industry, and has won numerous statewide journalism awards for environmental and political reporting.

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is the managing editor of WyoFile. A Lander native, she graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Journalism, and spent the next dozen years working in newspapers in the West, including a 9-year stint at The Daily Planet in Telluride, Colorado. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic Adventure, Adventure Journal, 5280 magazine and The Cleanest Line, and she has managed content for the documentary film festivals Mountainfilm and EarthX.

Tennessee Watson

You can hear Tennessee Watson’s reporting on Wyoming Public Radio where she covers education, youth well-being, and criminal justice. In 2020 Watson was awarded the Abrams Nieman Fellow for Local Investigative Journalism. After a year at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow, she’s back reporting on what’s behind Wyoming’s high juvenile incarceration rates.

Mara Abbott

Mara Abbott is an Olympic-athlete-turned-journalist. She is currently the energy and natural resources reporter at the Buffalo Bulletin in Buffalo, Wyoming. Her work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, espnW, The Colorado Independent, Runner’s World, Westword and the Daily Camera, among others. As a professional cyclist she was a two-time U.S. National Champion, two-time winner of women’s Giro d’Italia and placed fourth in the road race at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Adam Meyer

Adam Meyer began working at the Jackson Hole News and Guide fresh out of the University of Minnesota’s journalism program. Now Associate Publisher at the News and Guide and Vice President of Teton Media Works, Adam works with his team to serve readers with local news and information and to offer advertisers access to highly engaged print and digital audiences. Adam currently serves as the Board Chair of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and is an avid outdoorsman.

Register here for this FREE event.

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