Predominantly white rural areas supported Trump. They also often lack robust local media.
Todd VanDerWerffMay 9, 2018, 2:20pm EDT
A recent Politico study, which found that Donald Trump outperformed Mitt Romney in areas without a robust local media, put numbers to something I’ve felt intuitively since the 2016 election: thatthe nationalization of the media (a movement that includes websites like Vox) has been good for news junkies but not as good for those who want and need news about their local communities.
(A necessary caveat: The Politico study has some flaws in how it defines a “news desert.” Nieman Labs has more on that point. But I find the high-level point of Politico’s study — Trump was more successful in places where there was a legitimate news vacuum of one form or another — persuasive.)
The slow death of local media has contributed to the epistemic closure in conservative circles, especially in rural areas. That’s led to the proliferation of so-called “fake news” stories, widely spread on Facebook, which are sometimes outright untrue and sometimes just a hugely misleading presentation of a true news story.
No one has been sure how to puncture that conservative media bubble, to combat the narratives that lots of rural white voters have come to believe are true. It’s impossible to contradict fake news with “real news” when the sources offering that real news aren’t trusted.
But local media outlets, which used to carry that sort of clout within their communities, are being economically strangled by an environment that increasingly requires turning to nationally syndicated programs and stories, rather than the sort of local focus that used to mark these outlets.
So if the solution to these problems probably involves more robust local media — and specifically more robust local media online — well, good luck figuring out how to pay for that.