News deserts are not a new phenomenon. Throughout the country’s history, there have been places so small or isolated that the community could not support a local newspaper or any other media outlet. There have also been urban and suburban communities that have been traditionally overlooked, ignored and redlined by local and regional newspapers and broadcasting outlets.

Whether rural or urban, most were poor communities, often with large minority and ethnic populations. Residents in those communities were compelled to develop communication workarounds to get the news and information that would affect them personally.

But the 21st century is different. The internet and mobile phones today are so ubiquitous — 85% of adults owned a smartphone in 2021— that even residents in traditionally underserved and isolated communities have easy access to a wealth of information, as well as misinformation and disinformation on politically charged topics that tear at the fabric of communities and country.

Simultaneously, the collapse of the print newspaper business model — and the failure of many news organizations to develop alternative revenue sources — has destroyed more than a fourth of all the local newspapers since 2005, creating many more news deserts.

Whether seeking to revive local news in longstanding news deserts or newer ones, stakeholders — including policymakers, industry executives, venture capitalists, philanthropic organizations, universities, scholars and ordinary citizens — are confronted with multiple challenges. The geography of the country and population distribution, for example, complicate matters. More than 95% of the land mass in the U.S. is rural, yet only 20% of the population lives outside major urban areas.

There is no single solution. Reversing the loss of local news requires developing different journalistic and business strategies to address the disparities between the resources available in rural and urban areas, as well as in longstanding news deserts.

Read the full article about local news deserts by Penelope Muse Abernathy at Poynter.