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I continue to question Penny Abernathy’s methodology.

The headline graphic is the U.S. map showing the number of newspapers in each county. The implication can only be that a county with no newspaper is a “news desert” and those with one is hardly an oasis.

There is a strong premise in the report that only newspapers can deliver news even though it mentions the usual attention-getting digital efforts.

Using my geographic region for example: Orleans County is listed as no-newspaper even though a newspaper in our region has a reporter assigned to that county and there is a digital news site, Orleans Hub, that covers the county thoroughly. The implication that Orleans County is a news desert is just wrong.

To the south of my county, Wyoming County, it would seem like times are good – two newspapers. But these papers just cover singular communities and not the entire county. There is no online news publication there. Wyoming is much closer to a news desert than Orleans County.

In my home county, Abernathy lists one newspaper – presumably the Batavia Daily News (which covers the four-county region we call GLOW, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming). Understaffed like a lot of small papers these days but they still cover a lot of local news.

But Genesee County also has The Batavian, my business, and Video News Service, which is more of a freelance gig for a local videographer but she covers a lot of local news in the region.

Between the Daily News, The Batavian, and VNS, hardly anything goes uncovered. I’d wager that Genesee County is the most thoroughly covered small county in the nation. But you would never know it from Abernathy’s report.

And it’s important because dishonest people will distort inaccurate information for their own gain, as Nate McMurray did when he told Margaret Sullivan that he lost his congressional bid because the district he sought to represent was a news desert. Sullivan didn’t bother to fact-check his statement or Abernathy’s inaccurate report, and now McMurray’s disinformation is part of Sullivan’s book (which she doesn’t seem to care about).

It would be nice if Abernathy would drag herself out of the print-era mindset and be more thorough and inclusive in her report.

Howard Owens

Publisher, The Batavian (est. 2008)

From: The state of local news 2022

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