The pandemic is hurting local newspapers at a time when the public needs them most. That's a tragedy, writes Ben Halle in a guest opinion column for the Carroll Times Herald in Iowa. Halle was Iowa communications director for Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign, and says he learned a lot about the value of local journalists. After working closely with them for a year, "I can tell you firsthand: the impact of losing local journalism would be devastating for our democracy and civil discourse for generations to come."

Local journalism covers news that communities can't get from cable news, Halle notes, citing a Carroll Times Herald investigation of a police officer who had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl. He also gives a nod to Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times, an hour north, who won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing how corporate agriculture interests controlled local water policy.

"The reality is that what’s happening in your community will impact your daily life more than the president getting impeached," Halle writes. "The decision your mayor or county supervisors make about keeping a restaurant open during the pandemic will affect your life more than what happens in the halls of Congress. But with the depletion of local journalism, local power brokers no longer will be held accountable to the people they serve."

Local journalists know how to ask the important questions, too, Halle notes: "On the campaign trail, while too many national reporters frantically tried to get Pete’s reaction to whatever Trump had said that day, local journalists asked the hard-hitting questions. Like how Pete planned to bring jobs back to rural Iowa towns that had seen populations decline and businesses shutter. Or how to square the consequences of corporate agriculture’s monopolies with the fact that they keep several rural Iowa towns running. Or about how to provide care to Iowa’s aging population in a way that doesn’t bankrupt Iowa families. They ask questions that matter to their communities, and hold politicians accountable for the solutions they’re offering."