Is there a future for opinion journalism in today’s media marketplace—and is it even worth saving? Many readers cannot tell the difference between opinion and news, and are confused and alienated by op-eds about polarized national party politics. On Wednesday, September 28th, Joshua Darr will discuss his research which shows the potential of local opinion pages to bring people together—if they ignore what’s happening in Washington. Professor Justin de Benedictis-Kessner will moderate a Q&A following the presentation. The event will be live streamed on this page as well.
In the recently published book, Home Style Opinion: How Local Newspapers Can Slow Polarization, Darr and his co-authors, Matthew P. Hitt and Johanna L. Dunaway, measured the effects of a local newspaper’s decision to drop national politics for one month in 2019: local issues filled the sizable gap left by Trump and Congress, and political polarization slowed down significantly. They found that local newspapers should stick to their strengths: ignore opinions about national politics and build an op-ed page that amplifies community leaders, voices, and issues.
Joshua P. Darr is an associate professor of political communication in the Manship School of Mass Communication and Department of Political Science. He is also the Associate Dean of Research & Strategic Initiatives in the Manship School. From 2022-2024, he will serve as an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, conducting research on the connection between local media and political polarization. He has written about politics, media, and his research for popular outlets such as FiveThirtyEight, The Boston Globe, and Scientific American. His first book, Home Style Opinion: How Local Newspapers Can Slow Polarization, is co-authored with Matthew Hitt and Johanna Dunaway and was published in 2021 by Cambridge University Press. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.A. from Boston College.