The nationwide decline of local journalism has driven many Americans away from their nearby broadcast station or newspaper. Many cities, including some in South Carolina, have become “news deserts”, increasing polarization and media distrust. A lack of leadership and newsroom diversity also contribute to the widespread lack of commitment to local news outlets.
Insufficient diversity in both the newsroom and the front office is a particularly serious problem. Journalists and broadcast station management that look like the communities they serve are essential for producing complex reporting that examines different perspectives and voices.
Many broadcast stations and local newspapers face financial instability. It is evident that extensive and innovative solutions are required to solve the local journalism crisis that is spreading throughout the country.
Standard General’s plans to acquire TEGNA represent a crucial opportunity to broaden diversity and localism in broadcast journalism. This potential acquisition—currently awaiting FCC approval—provides a nationwide chance to rebuild trust and community interest in local journalism.
Diversity matters and this transaction will immediately increase minority participation in broadcasting. It would create the largest minority-owned broadcasting company in recent U.S. history. Currently, minority owners hold only 24 U.S. commercial television stations. The Standard General and TEGNA union would triple that number to 85 broadcast stations. The new company will also be a woman-led corporation, with broadcast industry veteran Deb McDermott serving as CEO.
Lack of reliable, diverse, and well-funded journalism leaves communities with a lack of confidence in their local journalists, making it less likely that people will be well informed and connected. Building more diverse news coverage is critical in establishing credibility with communities of color. Having representation that more accurately depicts these communities is imperative to a thriving local society. Standard General has been involved in the news business for years and has a proven record of support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to ensure that community voices are properly represented.
By leveraging the potential of advanced new technology—as Standard General has invested in previously—it could expand the scope of what is reported and build back the relationship between local news and the areas they represent. The FCC should closely examine the diversity and localism benefits when considering approval of the acquisition and note that this investment in increased local coverage would give the people of the community more of a voice. It could help rebuild the bridge between journalists, local broadcast stations, and communities nationwide.
In a recent conversation, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Nathan Simington stressed the importance of local broadcast news in communities across the country. He emphasized the value of diversity at all levels of local news stations to best reflect the American public. Similarly, former FCC Chairwoman, and South Carolina native, Mignon Clyburn recently said that increasing media ownership diversity is “one of the most important roles this agency has” adding that the FCC “has not been doing as much as it should, or as much as they could.”
Standard General and TEGNA presents an opportunity to remedy this inaction and expand local news coverage while establishing the nation’s largest minority-owned, woman-led group. The FCC should swiftly approve the acquisition.