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Study: Private equity firms buying newspapers cut local news

A provocative new research paper confirms many of the fears about private equity firms buying up America’s newspapers.

For those concerned about dwindling local news coverage, the paper offers an ominous preview of the ghost of Christmas future.

That is, if the country doesn’t find ways to save its independent, local free press system and prevent further consolidation.

As they acquired hundreds of newspapers in recent years, private-equity firms cut reporting staff and reduced local coverage more than other types of owners, according to the paper.

This has serious consequences for democracy, because of the role local newspapers provide in civic engagement, note the authors, finance professors Sabrina Howell and Arpit Gupta at New York University and Michael Ewens at the California Institute of Technology.

“We were surprised to see such a marked decline in local governance content,” Howell told me.