The Canary in
the Coal Mine
The expression “the canary in
the coal mine” refers to a practice
miners used to test for poisonous
gas in a coal mine—they would
send a canary down in a cage, and
if the bird came back dead, that
told them to watch out, there are
dangerous conditions in the mine.
The phrase has come to mean more
generally that a recent development should be viewed
as an early warning of adverse conditions and danger.
In our modern time, newspapers are to a community
like the canary was to the miner. Between 2004 and 2018,
approximately 1,800 newspapers sold their presses and
shut their doors. Now, over 200 counties in the United
States do not have any newspaper to report on local
news and happenings. Many more counties have only
When a community newspaper stops reporting the local news such as City and School Board meetings, high
school sports and other events, it is a harbinger of a decline in the health of the community’s civic life. You can
bet that if the newspaper has closed down, other important markers of a rich and vibrant community experience are suffering.
A common process: smaller papers sell themselves to
the big publicly-traded corporate chains, which in turn
sell themselves to hedge funds that turn the screws on
the publications to milk them dry. Sometimes a newspaper chain goes bankrupt, shedding its debt in a courtordered restructuring and damaging or destroying the
vendors—usually smaller companies—that supply it
with goods and services. Money many times seems to
trump ethics and morality.
When a newspaper stops covering local news, who
will replace that hole—Google, Facebook/Instagram,
Amazon? Not. As a general rule, tech giants are not in
the habit of hiring reporters to gather the news, and
often they don’t even bother making sure that the stories they spread on their platforms are accurate or true.
They hire clever lawyers to reduce and even eliminate
their federal tax burden, and all the while they are spying on you, tracking every single click on your desktop
and swipe on your phone.
Here is one place where we need the government to
step in. These corporations are monopolies that know
no bounds. Only the government is powerful enough to
restrain their predatory behavior, and give the companies that actually collect the news a fighting chance.
Here’s how you can help.
• Ask your Senators and congressional representative
what they are doing to regulate these behemoths.
• Support local businesses that put the monies they
earn back into the community.
• Read and support your local newspaper with your
subscription to their print or online offerings.
We have to stand up now for local news coverage before the local newspaper and website is destroyed by
greedy outside predators. If not now, then all that will
be left of local coverage is a few disgruntled blogs… and