Axios Co-Founder Urges Support for Local News Sources
America faces a national election in a little over a year. Most of us know that the airwaves and digital spaces have become crowded with increasingly loud voices on the political extremes and that AI and bad actors—and just maybe our nation’s global adversaries—are meddling
in America’s treasured democratic process. How are we to make sense of the news?
Davidson’s Vann Professor of Ethics and Society Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard,and online “smart brevity” Axiosco-founder Mike Allen took the stage of Davidson College’s Tyler-Tallman Hall on September 9 to offer a roadmap for the loud, crowded, fact-averse 2020 campaign. Billed “It Only Gets Worse from Here,” the conversation before a packed house was always entertaining and occasionally hilarious.
The duo didn’t deal too directly with our partisan politics, although Allen said that the extremes in news content could be seen as a response to what the audience demands. And Kristol reminded us that, while today seems apocalyptic, the discord and violence of the ’60s were no picnic.
Now a nationally read journalist, Mike Allen cut his teeth on the once robust world of local newspapers, chasing police cars and covering courthouses. He ruefully recalled his belief that papers would flourish forever because of TV and movie listings.
Allen offered a spirited encouragement of local news, noting the key role the fourth estate plays in keeping elected officials honest. But he summed up the economic challenge faced by any news outlet today: “With traditional newspapers, subscriptions paid for the ink and paper, that’s all. But the adspaid the salaries for writers and editors.” Online ads are way cheaper, he said, and don’t pay a fraction of what commercial and classified ads used to bring to a newspaper’s balance sheet.
“Fortunately, we depend on reader support rather than ads,” said News of Davidson co-editor Margo Williams. Nevertheless, NoD enjoyed Allen’s encouragement of local news. With a small volunteer staff, the online site doesn’t serve as a government watchdog, but rather a place for readers to check the community calendar, become apprised of municipal decisions and meetings, learn about local businesses, get to know their neighbors, and keep up with the needs and events of area nonprofits.
A professional communicator with a long career in higher education, Meg now consults and volunteers in areas where words and images work together to tell a story. She's a proud member of Davidson's Class of 1977 and lives nearby with her husband, Don, Davidson professor emeritus of biology, with whom she shares a family grown by kinship and choice.