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When Local Newsrooms Shrink, Fewer Candidates Run for Mayor

A study of 11 California newspapers shows that when cities have fewer reporters, political competition and voter turnout suffer.
Reporters Gary Massaro, left, and Judi Villa hug in the newsroom of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The newspaper shuttered in 2009.
Reporters Gary Massaro, left, and Judi Villa hug in the newsroom of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The newspaper shuttered in 2009.David Zalubowski/AP

For six years, Meghan Rubado worked as a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard. As she flit from beat to beat, covering City Hall and the school board, she watched as the paper began to deteriorate around her. The paper cut benefits and established a hiring freeze. Her colleagues took buy-outs or got unpaid furloughs. As they disappeared, she said, her duties ballooned.

“It was clear to me then that I could not pay attention to everything that deserved it, could not maintain relationships in the same way,” Rubado told CityLab. So, in 2010, right before mass layoffs at the paper, she quit and went to graduate school to earn a doctorate in political science. “Between the staff and benefit cuts, and the less-fulfilling work, I figured another six years of school and near-poverty sounded pretty good,” she said.