Ghosting the News

Ghosting the News
Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy

An Epidemic of News Deserts and Ghost Papers

Ghosting the News tells the most troubling media story of our time: How democracy suffers when local news dies. From 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print newspaper outlets closed in the U.S. One in five news organizations in Canada have closed since 2008. One in three Brazilians live in new deserts. The absence of accountability journalism has created an atmosphere in which indicted politicians were elected, school superintendents were mismanaging districts, and police chiefs were getting mysterious payouts. This is not the much discussed fake-news problem—it’s the separate problem of a critical shortage of real news.

America’s premier media critic, Margaret Sullivan, charts the contours of the damage, and surveys a range of new efforts to keep local news alive—from non-profit digital sites to an effort modeled on the Peace Corps. No nostalgic paean to the roar of rumbling presses, Ghosting the News instead sounds a loud alarm, alerting citizens to a growing crisis in local news that has already done serious damage.


Ghosting the News
  • ISBN: 978-1-7336237-8-0
  • Price: 15.99
  • E-Book price: 15.99
  • On Sale: July 14, 2020
  • Pages: 104


"An excellent introduction to the essential problem of our republic. With a wake-up call like this one, we still have a chance."
Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny

"Ghosting the News is a brisk and pointed tribute to painstaking, ordinary and valuable work." —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

"Margaret Sullivan has written one of the most timely books I've ever seen, about the biggest threat to democracy that no one is talking about. It's that rare book about journalism that regular folks need to read...short yet vital."
—Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"An ink-bound alarm bell. The threat Americans face, she argues, is not just the news that lies. It is also the news that will never exist in the first place."
—Megan Garber, The Atlantic

"A timely antidote for those outside the industry looking in."
—Rick Edmonds, Poynter

"Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan's book about what happens to local democracy when local newsrooms shrivel couldn't be publishing at a better time."
—The Seattle Times

“A no-nonsense retort to the notion that we live in a time of abundant information.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Ultimately, Sullivan’s pessimism about local journalism is as much a verdict on our culture as anything — and can you blame her? Journalists have been attacked as 'enemies of the people,'  body-slammed, tear-gassed and worse. Yet most Americans still say they trust local news. If we are going to rebuild trust in journalism, it will have to happen from the ground up, as part of a broader renewal of our civic institutions. There is a lot to fix in the country, and local news is no small part of it.”
—Sewell Chan, Los Angeles Times

"Quality journalism takes time and investment to produce, and it deserves our time and investment to preserve and appreciate. Our very democracy depends on it."
—Dylan Schleicher,  Porchlight Books




"Goodbye to the Hometown Paper," an excerpt via The Washington Post Magazine 

"The Constitution Doesn’t Work Without Local News," an essay by the author via The Atlantic.

[VIDEO] "Six partial solutions to local news crisis" via CNN's Reliable Sources.

[AUDIO] "Local News and Democracy" via WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show.

"What Crisis? Margaret Sullivan’s forthcoming book aims to challenge Americans’ complacency about local news," via The Seattle Times






About the author

Margaret Sullivan
© Michael Benabib

Margaret Sullivan is the media columnist of the Washington Post, the former public editor of the New York Times, and the former editor of the Buffalo News, where she started her career as a summer intern. She was twice elected a director of the National Society of News Editors and is a former member of the Pulitzer Prize board. Follow her on Twitter at @Sulliview.






8/17/2020, UNDERREPORTED With Nicholas Lemann Podcast

'Ghosting The News' with Margaret Sullivan | Part Two

'Ghosting The News' with Margaret Sullivan | Part Two

Journalism is in crisis. The heart of the crisis isn't what most people think it is—the bitter struggle between Donald Trump and news organizations. The heart of the crisis is economic. Quite rapidly in the twenty-first century, newspapers, traditionally the major generators of original journalism, have gone into a downward spiral that has resulted in… more