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Thursday, July 20, 2017

What happens to local news when there is no local media to cover it?

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. — Lots of newsworthy things happen in this city of nearly 30,000, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s just that many of them don’t make the local news.

Last fall, for example, voters went to the polls to elect a new city council and to weigh in on three ballot measures, including two that would raise local taxes. The issues were “critical” to the city’s immediate future, Mayor Larry Moody said. But without even a weekly newspaper in town, it was hard to find out.

The nearby Palo Alto Daily News mentioned the council race just once before Election Day; the rival Palo Alto Daily Post listed the candidates’ names in August — and then didn’t report another word until after Election Day.

“We do the same things in this city that everyone else does,” says Moody. “We just don’t seem to get the same attention.”

In many respects, East Palo Alto is a news “desert,” a community overlooked, if not entirely ignored, by the media. It’s one of thousands of towns across America in which community reporting is shrinking and sometimes disappearing. The biggest factor, according to a University of North Carolina study of the phenomenon: cutbacks, consolidation and closures of daily and weekly newspapers, the traditional lifeblood of local reporting in America since before its founding.

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