Business & Economy

Vermont Conversation: Will local news survive?

Students participating in UVM's Community News Service this summer meet with editor Justin Trombly (foreground). The service recently graduated its third class of citizen reporters. Photo courtesy of Richard Watts.

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

Somewhere in America each week, two more newspapers call it quits. Some 2,500 dailies and weeklies have closed since 2005, and just 6,500 remain. In places where once there was vibrant local coverage, there are now news deserts.

The Community News Service at The University of Vermont thinks it has an answer to this growing blight: student journalists. UVM’s Community News Service, or CNS, partners with nearly half of Vermont’s approximately 40 news outlets to provide them with reporting free of charge, including VTDigger.

Now the Vermont model is going national. Last month, UVM and the Knight Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to launch the Center for Community News at UVM. The idea is for student reporters and other citizen journalists around the country to fill the local news void.

We spoke with Richard Watts, coordinator of the Community News Service at UVM and director of the national Center for Community News; Lisa Scagliotti, founder and editor of Waterbury Roundabout, a new community news outlet; and Dom Minadeo, a UVM senior, assistant editor of The Winooski News and a reporter for CNS.

Watts said that 1,300 communities around the country no longer have any local news coverage. 

“That's bad for democracy,” he said. “If you don't have a local news source, you don't know what's going on in your community, and it's very hard to engage … Research shows that losing local news increases divisions and polarization and undercuts all these important institutions that we believe in.”

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

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