We've seen a number of stories recently claiming that the death of newspapers would somehow harm (or even do away with) democracy
. The whole idea seemed silly, but some new research actually backs up some of that claim. And while I have some problems with it, it's worth presenting the evidence to the contrary as well. The research paper, Do Newspapers Matter? Evidence from the Closure of The Cincinnati Post
(pdf file), looks at how the closing of the Cincinnati Post at the end of 2007 impacted local politics in Northern Kentucky in 2008. The research tried to control for other variables and found a noticeable impact: namely, more incumbents won re-election, fewer people ran for office and voter turnout decreased. Some of the impact was small, but the research does a pretty good job trying to control for many other factors.
That said... even the researchers admit that this is just one example, and only covers a short period of time. It's not surprising that immediately following the closure of a newspaper, there may not be other sources to fill the gaps (and even if there are, residents may not be as aware of them). What will be quite interesting to watch is what happens next. However, if you happen to live in the Northern Kentucky region, it certainly sounds like there's a wide-open opportunity to create a locally-focused news site.