It’s no secret that media, and in particular the newspaper business is going through some major changes. Every outlet, from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, to local papers and even alt weeklies have scrambled to find means for lasting survival. And the reports show clear trends, most of which read like this short but comprehensive NiemanLab report by industry analyst Ken Doctor:

In 2013, total revenue in the U.S. industry totaled $37.5 billion, according to NAA. That number was down an even one billion dollars, or 2.5 percent, from the year before. The difference between its actual performance and what it would have needed to get to the new normal: $1.4 billion. With a revenue of $38.9 billion, the industry would have grown one percent and stayed even with inflation.

The industry missed a new normal by about 4 percent.

It may seem like a small number, but it’s been a mountainous goal. The industry hasn’t overall seen revenue growth at all (much less with inflation taken into account) since 2007. The continued declines in print advertising — down in the high single digits, percentage-wise, year after year — have been too big for other revenue sources to make up the difference.

I would venture to say that there’s consensus in that news media is (as they say around Silicon Valley) “ripe for disruption”.

So what does this all have to do with cities? Local papers have taken an especially painful hit from the changes in advertising revenue and falling subscription rates. With leaner newsrooms and fewer readers, the ‘long tail’ sense of belonging that comes from being in the loop about what’s going on is eroding. Group that with the growing migration of people towards cities, and the large influence city government has on the lives of its constituents and you have a sense of disconnect that’s potentially dangerous.

We’re very interested in learning about the relationship that information brokers between cities and citizens. So we reached out to a number of local media reporters and editors (and former reporters and editors) to hear about their experience. Over a series of posts, we’ll publish what we’ve learned from them, and discuss their thoughts about how economics, citizenship, government, and information come together.

Stay tuned for our first interview with Louis Hansen, JSK Fellow and longtime reporter from the Virginian Pilot, in Norfolk, VA.