Do newspapers matter? Evidence from the closure of the Cincinnati Post

by Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido, Princeton University

The Cincinnati Post published its last edition on New Year's Eve 2007, leaving the Cincinnati Enquirer as the only daily newspaper in the market. The next year, fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell. We exploit a difference-in-differences strategy -- comparing changes in outcomes before and after the Post's closure in suburbs where the newspaper offered more or less intensive coverage -- and the fact that the Post's closing date was fixed 30 years in advance to rule out some non-causal explanations for these results. Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers -- even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed -- can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey