Lawyers Media News

Law Marketing Topics for April 5, 2022

Is your law firm's local community a news desert?

Do you practice in a news desert? Is your community served by a ghost newspaper?

According to a report published by the University of North Carolina's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, over 1,800 newspapers have shuttered operations in the United States since 2004.

The Poynter Institute estimates that more the 100 local newspapers closed during the COVID-19 pandemic alone.

The result is that thousands of communities have become "news deserts," counties and small towns without any local news coverage.

In addition to vanishing local newspapers, many small communities were once also served by large state and regional newspapers. No longer. Budget cuts and consolidations resulted in staff cuts among reporters covering those rural and suburban areas. These communities "are left without any credible and comprehensive sources of either local or regional political and economic news," according to the UNC report.

Or perhaps your community is served by a "ghost newspaper," a newspaper in name only -- a paper with a barebones staff that makes little effort to cover local news. Vanity Fair magazine recently reported that the venture capitalists who acquired the once-dominant Chicago Tribune newspaper had cut back news coverage so drastically that the entire remaining staff fit in an office the size of a Chipotle restaurant.

For lawyers of a certain age, lawyers who grew up with a thriving local newspaper and who today interact daily with local courts and government, it's easy to fail to appreciate what life is like for citizens who live in their communities:

They are getting no credible news about local legal and economic affairs.

This sad fact, while tragic, is also an opportunity for law firms to fill the gap in their community's understanding of the law and local government operations. Chances are nobody is reporting on the local zoning board. That's a huge opportunity for law firms with construction practices.

Nor is anyone likely reporting on state and local tax developments. Or any news developments relevant to the constellation of "elder law" and estate planning legal issues. Again, this is an opportunity for law firms with these practices to supply vital information and to build trust among current and prospective clients.