The fight for truth, who owns our media—local news coverage isn’t controlled locally
Published March 8, 2023
Written by Washington
Photography by Simply American
Does the media give equal weight to all sides when covering a story? Understanding who owns the media may help shine a light on why the media seems so one-sided.
Decentralization of power was the hallmark for the writers of the United States Constitution. The focus was on local jurisdictions, then on the county, the state and finally the nation. In those early days of our country, local news was a cornerstone of American life. People trusted the news because their neighbors produced it.
As time went on, news organizations concentrated into fewer hands. Journalism professors of the 1960s warned the concentration was causing news coverage to become dangerously one-sided.
They were dead on target.
Today, citizen journalists at Simply American are focused on restoring balance.
After reading an article in The Grand Rapids Press, have you ever wondered if The Washington Post owns it? There is an app available that takes local news articles and aggregates them based on geographic location. Users of the app can compile articles written by neighbors, without the heavy-handed political influence of news desks in New York and Washington, D.C. What a great idea! The app uncovers what appears to be a standard “us versus them” message and shows how mainstream news often is highly critical of local politics.
The point of this article is not to hone in on the merits of criticism of current media outlets. Instead, the focus is to highlight the entities owning and controlling Ottawa County news coverage.
Ottawa County Board of Commissioners
A couple of months ago, the newly elected Ottawa County Board of Commissioners sparked a media storm when it abolished the county’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) department. A plethora of parroted articles condemned the action. Since then, an onslaught of negativity has permeated the local news cycles.
Did local media direct that same lash on the previous commissioners when they hastily gave away over $30 million to non-profits, or when they refused to listen to the public about masking children?
We investigated eight local news sources. Only one of the eight is owned by a Michigan organization. The other seven have been absorbed into national, private or public corporations that profit from the community’s trust in localism. Our research inquiries centered around one question—Who owns the local news?
|Local News||First Level Owner||Company Status||Number of Local Publications|
|The Holland Sentinel||Gannett||Public||14 in MI|
220 in USA
|Morning Sun||Media News Group||Private (Colorado)||300 in USA|
|Wgvunews.org||NPR & PBS||Government Funded||1000+ NPR stations|
250+ PBS stations
|MLive||Advance Local Media||Public||41 publications USA|
|The Grand Rapids Press||MLive||Subsidiary||8 MI newspapers|
|Wood TV8||NextStar Media Group, Inc.||Public||200 stations, 120 websites, 116 TV markets|
|Grand Haven Tribune||Paxton Media Group||Private (Kentucky)||120 publications USA|
|Bridgemi.com||Non-Profit, No Owner||Decentralized Donations||Bridgemi.com &|
The Center for Michigan
Taking a dive into some of the public corporations listed above may shed light on potential political bias from the local news stations. A visit to each website, and their goals and values become apparent.
On the website of Gannet, the owner of The Holland Sentinel, there are pages dedicated to left-aligned ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and Inclusion. The “About Us” page includes the following, “We have created a powerful network of brands and capabilities that position us well to ensure and preserve the future of local journalism. We will continue to connect people to content that matters…”
There is a “People + Culture” page on the website of advancelocal.com, owner of Mlive. On the page it is written, “Central to our mission, to strengthen and empower the communities we serve, is advancing our Diversity and Inclusion efforts—from our internal practices, to the talent we attract and foster, to the content we create and the ways in which we interact with the communities where we operate. While there’s still more work to be done, we’re proud of the systemic and cultural changes that we have implemented so far.”
At NextStar Media Group, owner of WOOD TV8, DEI is listed as one of their corporate responsibilities. There also is an “ESG Policies” page. On the “Company” page under “Values” it is written, “During the last 25+ years, NexStar has grown based on a commitment to deliver exceptional service to the local communities where we operate, to expand through accretive acquisitions, to focus on enhancing the operating results of acquired stations and digital media properties, and through an overarching focus on localism.”
ESG and DEI are core initiatives of the Democratic Party, actively countered by Republican leaders nationwide.
To national organizations, projecting trust and a decentralized image of the local news is valuable. These projections might be affecting our current understanding of the world around us.
Over the past couple of years, more and more of the American public have begun to realize that small groups of organizations own national news brands. Such groups often mimic the same message, a message that has been proven wrong on multiple accounts.
When a corporation takes over a smaller company, it typically assimilates the smaller organization into the larger body. Many changes occur over the course of time. The acquired entity adopts processes, company culture, and new human resource procedures. Ultimately, new employees and management take over and new signatures appear on paychecks.
Nothing is inherently wrong with such mergers and acquisitions. The challenge posed here is whether a local news station still can claim decentralization from a national influence.
The media exert a massive influence upon our beliefs. In the pursuit of truth, we must explore the positive and negative aspects of an event. If claiming to be impartial, we must endeavor to cover all sides of the story. If prevailing news brands continuously supply a one-view approach, will they be supplying the truth or a centrally dictated narrative?
In his book, 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day-by-day and minute-by-minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Do you feel an overwhelming narrative as you read the “trusted” news sources around Southwest Michigan? Does the mainstream media give equal weight to all sides of local current events, or do they only relay one side?
Decentralized reporting is crucial to the survival of our nation. It is our duty as citizens to stay well informed. As we march forward in time, Simply American will attempt to provide another side of current events. That other side might go against the narrative of the “Not So Local News.”