The commercial radio group in Macomb, Regional Media, fired its news director and no longer has anyone covering city hall, police briefing, and other local beats. While the move might improve the company's bottom line, it does nothing to serve the community it purports to cover.
Shop Talk panelist Rich Egger said it’s part of a troubling trend in Macomb. He said six professional news organizations covered city council meetings when he arrived in town in 1998. Now just two do so (Tri States Public Radio and the McDonough County Voice).
Egger is concerned Macomb is not alone, and that rural areas are becoming information deserts. Residents might be able to go on-line and find plenty of news stories from around the world but there are fewer places to turn to for news from their own backyard.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton is also concerned. She said Regional Media, which recently bought the stations, posted a story a few weeks ago about a drug bust in LaSalle and branded it as local news. She pointed out LaSalle is a good two-and-a-half hour drive from Macomb.
Crighton said most of the “news” content on the company’s website consists of press releases rather than real reporting.
Panelist Jonathan Ahl said it hurts the community when fewer reporters are keeping tabs on local issues and events. And he said the loss of another newsroom in town does not benefit Tri States Public Radio – he believes it’s helpful to have diverse viewpoints.
Ahl also said the company’s decision means there is one fewer place where students at Western Illinois University can go to get experience. He hopes the company will change course.