Filling the Gaps: News Deserts and Local Public Radio

February 1, 2023
12:00 P.M. ET
Virtual Webinar
Professor Patterson reviewed the findings and recommendations in his report.


America’s local newspapers are in steep decline, creating a deficit in local news. In affected communities, civic life is receding, social cohesion is declining, misinformation is increasing, and governmental accountability is weakening.

Harvard Kennedy School’s Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press, Thomas Patterson, recently conducted a study with the goal of understanding whether local public radio stations can substantially help meet the deficit in information needs resulting from the decline of the local newspaper, and what they would need to fill these gaps. 
215 of the 242 local NPR affiliate stations around the country participated in the survey, which found that:
  • Most local public radio stations serve communities where the quality and quantity of local news and public affairs information is inadequate to the communities’ information needs.
  • Public stations with small budgets dedicate just 22 percent of their total spending to news and public affairs.  
  • 60 percent of stations say they have fewer than 10 news reporters and editors.
  • Lack of funding is the key factor holding back local public radio stations from becoming the leading news providers in their communities, and from increasing communities’ access to high quality news and public affairs coverage.
On Wednesday, February 1st Professor Patterson reviewed the findings and recommendations in his report.