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In 'news deserts,' small towns can struggle to tell their stories

In rural America, small communities are often reliant on large outside news outlets, and miss opportunities to tell their own stories.
Posted at 10:50 PM, Feb 19, 2024

In the U.S., according to Northwestern University, more than half of all counties only have one newspaper, which usually does not publish daily. 

This is the case in the town of Springfield, Colorado, with a population of about 1,400. It's in Baca County, about as far southeast in Colorado as you can get without drifting into Oklahoma or Kansas. 

There is no daily news outlet in Baca County. They do have one newspaper, but it only publishes once a week. 

They do have a Web site. But as of Monday, the latest article on that home page was posted 10 days ago.

Scripps News talked with the mayor of Springfield, Tyler Gibson. We asked him without a reliable daily local news outlet, where were people getting their news? Unsurprisingly, like most of us, they go online — where news can have the same problems no matter the size of the community reading. 

"In the time of Facebook and social media, a lot of falsehoods are perpetuated there," Gibson told Scripps News. "It's getting harder and harder to fight those."

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Gibson says there are occasionally local TV stations from Pueblo, about a 3 hour drive away, that will cover stories in Springfield. But he says oftentimes the only stories you see covered are ones like this: A man pulled over for drunk driving who tried to claim his dog had been the one behind the wheel.

Gibson says without a local daily news outlet, Springfield isn't always getting to tell its own stories, and outside news outlet often focus on the sensational.

Gibson says he actually would welcome more scrutiny from reporters working on local news, because he says he would get more feedback. He would know if people think officials are doing a good or bad job.