Vermont Conversation: The last American newspaper

Ken Tingley on the cover of his book, "The Last American Newspaper"
Ken Tingley is the former editor of the Post-Star, the newspaper in Glens Falls, New York.

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As one news outlet after another downsizes and closes, who is going to do the journalism in the future?

That’s the question asked by Ken Tingley, the former editor of the Post-Star, the newspaper in Glens Falls, New York. Over the last decade, Tingley watched as his newsroom went from a staff of about 50 to just 7 people today. He chronicles what has happened to local news in his new book, “The Last American Newspaper: An Institution in Peril, Through the Eyes of a Small-Town Editor.”

Tingley’s experience in Glens Falls, a city of 15,000 located near the tourist centers of Lake George and Saratoga Springs, is part of a national trend. From 2005 to 2020, about a quarter of local print newspapers ceased publication in the U.S. Half of over 3,000 counties in the U.S. had just one local print newspaper. Only a third had a daily newspaper, and over 200 counties had no newspaper at all. Vast swaths of the country have become news deserts.

The Post-Star was founded in 1904. The daily newspaper in Glens Falls won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for the editorial writing of Mark Mahoney, who wrote about government secrecy and the public’s right to know.

Tingley and his colleagues have reported on the rise of a local Republican member of Congress, Elise Stefanik, who was elected to Congress in 2014 at age 30. Stefanik ran as a political moderate but has since become a staunch acolyte of former President Donald Trump. Stefanik is a rising star in the party who became the third-ranking House Republican after Liz Cheney was pushed out by Trump loyalists in 2021.

The Trump era has been marked by increasing threats against journalists. A pro-Trump protester in Glens Falls pointed a toy gun at one of Tingley's reporters and declared, “We’ve got one coming for you, Post-Star!” After the newspaper reported on the incident, Rep. Stefanik invited the protester to one of her town halls, and her staffer sent him an appreciative message.

An outraged Tingley contacted Stefanik’s communications director. “I asked her to immediately denounce this man, that he had threatened our reporters, he had threatened our editors, he had threatened people at our newspaper and put their lives in danger.”

“Never heard anything,” he said.

Tingley urges people to subscribe and support local news. If local news outlets don’t survive, he said, “the number of people who vote will be less [because] they don't know who's running for office, and …there's going to be less community engagement.” He also predicted that without local watchdogs, “You're gonna see your taxes go up.”

In addition to democracy taking a hit, Tingley predicts that without the public accountability that local media provides, “It's going to cost us all more money.”

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.


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