“Say ‘Yes’ to a Free Press” Explores Importance of Local News

Muhlenberg will host a film screening of the documentary “News Matters,” followed by a discussion and local news fair.

 Tuesday, September 6, 2022 06:43 PM

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This event takes place September 15 in the Seegers Union Event Space and is free and open to the public. Film screening begins at 6:00 p.m. followed by a talkback. The local news fair will take place outside the event from 6:00-8:30 p.m. 

According to the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the United States has lost more than 2,150 newspapers since 2004. Losing access to quality local information poses a threat beyond just missing out on a daily crossword. An informed public who understands how their government functions (and is made aware when it doesn’t function) results in more engaged citizens.

A report from the Federal Communications Commission says local newspapers are “the best medium to provide the sort of public service journalism that shines a light on the major issues confronting communities and gives residents the information they need to solve their problems.” Research shows that when local newspapers disappear, communities tend to see lower voter turnout, increased polarization, a general erosion of civic engagement and an environment in which misinformation and conspiracy theories can spread more easily.

Allentown’s only daily newspaper, The Morning Call, was purchased by a hedge fund during the pandemic, and the newspaper building was subsequently sold. Since April, approximately 23 percent of the Call journalists have resigned or moved on.

To examine what this means for Allentown, the Department of Media & Communication will host a screening of “News Matters,” a documentary that explores an attempt by journalists to restore the Denver Post after it was purchased by the same fund that bought The Morning Call. The screening will be followed by a talkback with journalists, including several who are passionate about covering local issues in the Lehigh Valley and will discuss alternative methods of disseminating important information. There will also be a local news fair where visitors can find ways to get the quality information needed to strengthen our city and our democracy.

The event will follow the mask rules of the College as they stand on the day of the event; please be prepared to wear a mask. For more information, contact Sara Vigneri, lecturer of media & communication, at svigneri@muhlenberg.edu.