Local Journalism: Somehow different, somehow the same

In New York and Carbondale, we visited different local TV stations, radio stations and we came into contact with different media makers to find out that local journalism in Germany and the US is different but also very comparable. 

Germany and the U.S. have one main similarity in local journalism:  local newspapers suffer from decreasing readers’ demand. Less people are willing to pay for local news, some take them from social media users, no matter if this kind of news is reliable or not. We see newspapers dying in Germany like in the US, although they have an important role in giving citizens the facts they need to be responsible participants in a democracy.

However, there are also differences: in contrast to the US, local TV stations are not as common in Germany. Public broadcasters serve the different states (e.g. BR serves  Bavaria, WDR serves especially North Rhine-Westphalia) and they put together their programs completely independently. But these stations do not serve local areas. Newspapers operated by smaller or bigger publishing companies or local radio stations serve these areas.


With regards to TV journalism, the US with its local tv affiliates might have adopted a system with a stronger local focus. But we can find comparable structures also in the German radio. For instance, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the local radio system is based on 45 independent radio stations which broadcast their own local program for some hours. Outside of these local broadcasts, they take over the statewide program of “Radio NRW”, so they are more or less like an affiliate to Radio NRW, like local TV stations in the US are towards ABC, NBC etc. These local radio stations altogether reach the highest number of radio listeners among all stations in Germany.

So even if we see differences in local media between the US and Germany, local journalism in the US and Germany has one thing in common: It can still reach a lot of people, it’s just that the platforms for doing so are changing.