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Quality Lacking in Online News Boom, FCC Says

The FCC has produced a massive study on the state of local Internet news in the U.S., confirming what many of us already know: A proliferation of online news outlets has not yielded a corresponding increase in the kind of in-depth, quality reporting needed to keep private interests and government in check. For example, the study found that local television stations — which are a huge provider of online community news — are more likely to focus on inexpensively produced crime stories than resource-heavy investigations into abuses of power.

“In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting,” the study’s introduction states. “This is likely to lead to the kinds of problems that are, not surprisingly, associated with a lack of accountability — more government waste, more local corruption, less effective schools, and other serious community problems. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.” –ARK

The Los Angeles Times:

In a 475-page report released Thursday titled, “The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age,” the government regulatory agency, which has oversight over television and radio as well as certain aspects of the Internet, said there is a “shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting” that could lead to “more government waste, more local corruption,” “less effective schools” and other problems.

… Indeed, the FCC noted that The Times covers almost 100 municipalities and 10 million residents. David Lauter, Metro editor of The Times, is quoted as saying that his staff is “spread thinner and there are fewer people on any given area. … We’re not there every day, or even every week or every month. Unfortunately, nobody else is either.”

Local TV is singled out in the report for not covering important issues enough. Although the number of hours of local news has increased over the last few years, too few stations “are investing in more reporting on critical local issues,” the report said. Furthermore, the report said that although stations may be adding newscasts, they are doing it with fewer reporters.

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