As an Ohio newspaper dies, it’s clear subscribers must preserve reporting essential to our democracy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Since the opening words of our republic were declared, in a shout heard round the world, newspapers have held the powerful accountable in every city, county, colony and state.
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, marks the end of this era in a city of 65,000, a metropolitan area of more than half a million, the seat of Mahoning County, Ohio.
The Vindicator of Youngstown is finished.
“Democracy, as we know it, is about to die in Youngstown,” Joel Kaplan, of Syracuse University’s School of Journalism, told Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post media columnist and former Buffalo News editor.
“No one in that community will be covering, on a regular basis, school board meetings, city council meetings, the cops and the courts,” Kaplan said.
It’s one thing when the transformation to a digital marketplace ends most print classified advertising and prompts the closure of department stores, furniture stores, computer stores, auto dealerships and other places where folks shopped near home.
It’s another when the loss of that local advertising revenue shuts down the only newsroom with the resources and mission to keep an eye on things for the public.
Amazon and Facebook won’t be delivering a team of reporters to cover those city councils, school boards and courtrooms; the zoning commissions, utility boards and highway departments; the businesses, restaurants, local music, theater and events; the high school sports teams, and so much more.
They won’t draw attention to life-threatening problems that need to be fixed, as The Vindicator did just this week by shining its light on inadequate emergency service across the Mahoning Valley. Due to an uncoordinated mishmash of ambulance services, it often takes more than an hour to get folks having strokes, heart attacks and other acute medical events to treatment. “We have no system in the Mahoning Valley” for emergency medical services, Joe Mistovich, chairman of Health Professions at Youngstown State University, told The Vindicator.
Critical issues like this get fixed only when enough people know about the problem and care enough to demand better. This is why democracy works better than any other form of government.
The Vindicator has performed this duty for 150 years. It has tracked how public officials voted, exposed city hall corruption, explored how fracking prompted a local earthquake and thoroughly reported about a major GM plant that closed after 2016 campaign promises that more manufacturing jobs would be coming to the region.
The loss of The Vindicator hit home in our newsroom. One of our outstanding investigative reporters, Ashley Luthern, started her career there.
“The end of the Vindicator is devastating for me personally and for my hometown,” she said. “I can’t overstate how important the paper has been to the Mahoning Valley.”
Since January, Ashley has been focused on recurring cycles of violence in Milwaukee — a special report we hope will inform our community and foster new ways of breaking those chains. So far she’s revealed that:
These stories have been written with great skill and compassion, including her latest complex story about how an Army veteran was charged in a shooting case while his brother’s killer was not.
No other newsroom in Wisconsin can do this kind of work. Ashley joined us after reporting stories in Youngstown that no one but The Vindicator could do.
We see one source of revenue that holds the promise to keep large and robust local news operations alive and thriving: Digital and print subscriptions.
If you already subscribe, thank you for supporting independent news coverage essential to our democracy. If you don’t, or know others who would benefit, please visit jsonline.com/deal and jsonline.com/gift.
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Thank you for supporting this vital work.
Email Editor George Stanley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @geostanley.
This content was originally published here.