Why do we need the Mat-Su Sentinel?

A healthy community is one in which residents thrive as access to information fosters connection and participation.

Why do we need the Mat-Su Sentinel?
Photo by Matt Walsh / Unsplash

Local news coverage is important for community health

A healthy community is one in which residents thrive as access to information fosters connection and participation.

Nonpartisan coverage of community events, solutions to common challenges, local government actions and elections provides residents with the necessary tools to engage, stay connected, and strengthen community ties.

Robust local newspapers are vital to civic engagement

In 2023, Palmer, Houston and Wasilla city elections were decided by less than 9% of registered voters, while multiple council seats saw only one candidate run. Did residents know there was an election? Were they informed about the issues on the ballot? Were they familiar with the decisions made by the people they’ve elected, or how those decisions impact their everyday lives?

Studies show that communities where a local paper has ceased reporting face falling voter turnout and fewer people running for office. That means voters are not only disconnected from the people making decisions on their behalf, but also have little choice about who they elect. 

This trend is seen clearly in the Mat-Su. For example, in 2005 as the Valley saw robust news coverage from multiple sources, voter turnout in Wasilla sat at 27.4%. In 2023 following years of decreasing local news coverage, Wasilla city election turnout was 8.3%. 

The direct tie between quality local journalism and a healthy community is clear. Areas without robust local coverage face a crisis of community civic health. The Mat-Su Sentinel seeks to address this problem by providing additional clear, accurate, nonpartisan news coverage.

In an age of stark divides, a nonpartisan local newspaper encourages common ground

The presence of a local paper also decreases polarization in both local government and in the community it serves, studies show

Communities are stronger when they work together to find solutions to local challenges. In an era where agenda-driven websites and social media posts sow discord, it is more important than ever to focus on facts, first. Quality local news reporting does that.

The importance of local newsrooms to a healthy democracy is a bipartisan issue. From bastions of conservatism like the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas to a coalition of Democrat Senators, the cause of protecting and supporting local news transcends political divides. 

Independent of financial gain and without fanfare, accurate and nonpartisan nonprofit local news keeps its community strong by helping neighbors fully understand complex issues.

A nonpartisan local newspaper serves as a watchdog

America’s founders believed a free press is vital to the care and keeping of democracy because it serves as a watchdog, ensuring that those entrusted with power are not abusing their positions.

A local newspaper serves as a spotlight on moments big and small, exposing the deceptions that harm us and celebrating the optimism that brings us together. 

Nonpartisan, thorough reporting takes trained, dedicated staff members working tirelessly to understand and report on issues that impact readers.

The case for nonprofit news

A nonprofit newsroom is operated as a public service. Giving full, free news access through an online platform and email newsletter, it asks for but does not require readers to chip in through donations and membership-style financial support. 

Nonprofit news also relies heavily on local and national grants and philanthropy aimed at community health and development, to which quality local news coverage is key. Sponsorships from local businesses and income from hosted events make up the rest of the funding.

Today hundreds of newsrooms nationwide are operated as nonprofits under this model, successfully growing their staff and coverage to best serve their readers. In Alaska, the Juneau-based Alaska Beacon follows this format. Outside, small communities from Belmont, Massachusetts to El Paso, Texas look to nonprofit newsrooms to provide local reporting.

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