New report, website examine expansion of news deserts in U.S. communities

The UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the UNC School of Media and Journalism has released its latest report on the emergence and expansion of news deserts — communities with limited access to credible, comprehensive news — in the United States.

The Expanding News Desert” — authored by Penny Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair of Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the MJ-school — identifies the communities most at risk for becoming news deserts and delves into their implications for the news profession and the country. Along with the report, the Center launched with information and resources related to news deserts and newspaper ownership.


In one section, “The Loss of Local News,” Abernathy documents the scale of the loss, the rise of “ghost” newspapers, the efforts to fill the void and the challenges that remain. Another section, “The Enduring Legacy of the New Media Barons,” examines how private equity and hedge funds altered the newspaper landscape during a period of immense disruption.

Abernathy is a former executive at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and senior media business executive. She specializes in preserving quality journalism by helping news organizations succeed economically in the digital environment. Her research focuses on the implications of the digital revolution for news organizations, the information needs of communities and the emergence of news deserts in the United States.

About the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media supports existing and start-up news organizations through its dissemination of applied research and the development of digital tools and solutions. It supports the economic and business research of UNC’s Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics. In addition, it supports professors and students associated with the Reese News Lab, which designs, tests and adapts digital tools for use in small and midsize newsrooms. The center is funded by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and UNC’s Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost.