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Frontline Executive Producer: Local Journalism "Crucial To Our Democracy"

Lee Strubinger

The executive producer of Frontline says local journalism is crucial to democracy in the United States.

During a morning fill-up conversation at The Garage in Rapid City, she says communities need to support their local news outlets.

The South Dakota Newspaper Association doesn’t keep solid data regarding the number of newspaper journalists today versus ten years ago. But the organization says some of the state’s largest dailies—in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen—have shrunk their newsrooms and operations considerably.

That troubles Raney Aronson. She says journalism has an important role as check and balances… especially on the local level.

“I do believe that local journalism is where it’s at, I’m super passionate about it,” Aronson says. “I do think that all local communities should have vital and vibrant local journalism to make sure that what’s happening at the local level is above board and good for the community itself, the larger community. Without journalists what do you know? How will you know something? There are local journalists here today and the work that they do is so crucial to our democracy.”

Frontline recently announced a local journalism project, which seeks to collaborate with local news organizations to produce investigative journalism… and pay for it.

Aronson says most national outlets take local journalism and put a national spin. She says that diminishes local journalism, which affects Frontline’s ability to do its job.

“What that means at the national level is that when Frontline wants to work with local journalists in an area like this there’s only a few left,” Aronson says. “That should alarm everyone across the country. I do believe in this. So, if there’s one thing I could advocate for, it’s journalism at the local level.”

Officials say local news readership remains strong, but readership alone isn’t enough to sustain a newspaper economically. The president of the South Dakota Newspaper Association says advertising is needed as well. He says the business model has changed significantly, in large part due to the internet.

To hear Aronson's Morning Fill-Up conversation, click play below...