Local News Knits the Fabric of American Life

Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

An inside-page headline in the June 25 Carmel Pine Cone read, “Pine falls before tree service gets to it.” City forester Sara Davis told the paper that “the tree’s condition declined rapidly due to drought and an infestation of bark beetles.”

You could say local news is suffering a drought. We hear about it all the time with the closing of newspapers and the shrinking of staffs—for instance, the recent departure of 40 journalists at the Chicago Tribune following its sale to a hedge fund.

Weeklies like the Pine Cone are especially vulnerable. The journalism school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill says some 2,000 weeklies—more than 1 in 5—have folded in the past 15 years.

Those who fret over the loss of local news usually focus on reporting about municipal government. But reading about the Carmel tree shifted my thoughts to little things that give a community its heartbeat. I called the Pine Cone’s editor, Paul Miller. He had an accomplished career as a news producer at CBS and NBC before buying the Pine Cone in 1997.

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