The Pulitzer Prize, the authority on the most groundbreaking works in the world of literature, music composition, and journalism, talked about the importance of celebrating local journalism. Joyce Dehli, the co-chairperson of the Pulitzer Board wrote, “No matter the tactics we pursue, our starting point must be an affirmation of the importance of the importance of deeply rooted, professional local journalism as an essential force in our democracy.”
This meant that local journalists are crucial because they give a voice to local communities. As news giants such as CNN and USA Today report about nationwide and worldwide news, local journalists are there to ensure that the local folk will still be represented, at least within their communities. If people want to stay up to date with local business news and other happenings that surround them and their families, they can just turn to their city or town’s papers and news sites.
But, every once in a while, local journalists report groundbreaking stories that show a bigger picture about the latest issues affecting everyone around the world. These are three examples of news stories that started in local papers that eventually gained nationwide attention.
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team
Founded in 1872, The Boston Globe is among the United States’ earliest newspapers. It was founded by a group of businessmen living in Boston, Massachusetts. This group’s leader was Eben Jourdan, who also co-founded the Jordan Marsh Department Store. Since then, it has become the leading reporter on stories that happen in Boston and other cities in Massachusetts. And, much like many newspapers around the country, The Boston Globe has its own division dedicated to investigative journalism. This team is called Spotlight.
To date, the Spotlight Team has won three Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of groundbreaking stories in Boston. They first won in 1972 for reporting on political conflicts within the local government of Somerville. Then, in 1980, the Team won again for reporting on management failures regarding the transportation system in Boston. Its latest win was in 2003 when it uncovered the sexual abuses conducted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. This story was the subject of the film, Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. The story on the abuses of the Catholic Church opened the conversation on the trauma that it caused on young children at that time. This report influenced other local journalists to uncover stories of sexual abuse survivors in other parts of the country and the world.
In contrast to The Boston Globe, The City is one of the youngest news platforms in the United States, having been established in 2019. It’s also among the few nonprofit and nonpartisan news platforms that were created to highlight the latest happenings in New York. Driven by the dedication to independent local reporting, The City steps up and reports on the nitty-gritty events that happen in the city — stories that are often looked over in favor of more high-profile stories that would generate more audiences.
One of the most impactful stories that The City reported was in June 2019, when a transgender woman died in Rikers Island, where New York City’s main prison complex is located. The woman was Layleen Polanco. She was detained in Rikers for prostitution and the lowest-level drug possession charges. Her case was so minor that she could have been let go for a bail of $500. But instead, she was unjustly put in solitary confinement and largely ignored by the authorities. Thus, when she experienced major complications with epilepsy, she died without anyone noticing her struggle. This local story opened conversations about police brutality and gender-based discrimination — issues that are already running rampant across the country.
The Connecticut Mirror
Much like The Connecticut Mirror is also a relatively young news platform, having been launched in 2009. It also identifies as a nonprofit and nonpartisan news platform that is focused at a grassroots level of journalism.
Back in 2019, it partnered with ProPublica — also a news platform that is more focused on a national scale — to report on how Connecticut’s zoning policies led to the blatant segregation of the affluent and the low-income communities. Such policies caused financially-struggling families to live in communities where the crime rates are higher. This story highlights how the divide between socioeconomic classes and races widens in local communities.
These groundbreaking stories reported by local news platforms affirm once again that local journalists are the true watchdogs of communities. It’s extremely important to stay up-to-date on news reports that are reported across the country. But it’s also equally important to pay much attention to the stories happening in our own communities.