Americans are worried that local media mergers will lead to biased news, according to a new poll from Gallup and the Knight Foundation published Thursday.
The polls shows that 92% of respondents are concerned political bias may result from local news consolidation and 77% are concerned about an increase of news not unique to their local area. 73% worry new owners might spend less on news gathering and reporting.
The poll comes after the news earlier this month that GateHouse Media acquired USA Today publisher Gannett for $1.4 billion, becoming the biggest news publisher in the U.S. GateHouse currently publishes 156 daily papers, while USA Today is one of the largest papers in circulation in the U.S.
Mergers like the one between GateHouse and Gannett or Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchases of local television stations “continue to alter the landscape of local news coverage and raise questions about its future. They also cause consumers of local news to express concern for a variety of reasons, including cuts in staffing and resources, the nationalization of news content, and the potential for greater bias in news coverage,” explained the Knight Foundation when outlining the findings of the poll.
In late July, a Pew Research Center assessment of the news media found that newspaper circulation reached its lowest point since 1940 in 2018. Downward trends in news media, especially at newspapers, have underscored the need for creative solutions. Some outlets have turned to paywalls and ads. Others, like Cleveland.com, are using text messaging-based subscriptions to compete in the digitally-savvy world by sending hyper-local information straight from a reporter to subscribed consumers.