How Loud Does the Watchdog Bark? A Reconsideration of Local Journalism, News Non-profits, and Political Corruption

International Journal of Press/Politics

Journalism has long been presumed to serve as a check on the powerful, shedding light on wrongdoing; however, as local newspapers reach market failure, extant theory pre- dicts corruption will go unchecked. We operationalize corruption as federal prosecutions for public corruption, defined by the US Department of Jus- tice as crimes involving the abuse of public trust by government by federal, state, and local public officials. We examine changes in the local news media ecosystems: first, whether declines in legacy local newspaper employment and circulation are associated with changes in prosecutions for public corruption; and second, whether efforts to supplement watchdog journalism with non-profit journalism might mitigate associated declines in federal prosecution for public corruption. Our findings suggest nonprofit interventions in failing local commercial news markets may be an important safeguard for keeping public officials accountable.

Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell
Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell
Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director