Academic paper tracks effect of newspapers on public finance
Bob Zaltsberg, editor of The Herald-Times. Chris Howell | Herald-Times.

That’s the first line in the abstract describing an academic study released in May titled: “Financing dies in darkness? The impact of newspaper closures on public finance.”

Study authors are Pengjie Gao from the University of Notre Dame; Chang Lee from the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Dermot Murphy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Their research cites a number of other studies about the importance of local newspapers in keeping watch on governmental agencies as they build to additional conclusions: that after a newspaper closes in a community, municipal borrowing costs rise, government wage rates rise, the number of government employees rises, and closely related, tax dollars paid by citizens rise.

The work of Gao, Lee and Murphy make a case that you should be happy to hear that. The study illustrates the value we and other local newspapers provide a community by watching over the actions of governmental units.

The introduction to the paper quotes a Federal Communication Commission report from 2011 that suggests what can happen when local news coverage erodes:

“… in many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional accountability reporting. 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…