One could argue that the media’s influence on political processes becomes more poignant the more it removes itself from local issues because its absence can define the political attention given to local matters.
Consider how the scale of the media’s attention to an issue impacts how many people know and care about it. For example, media outlets across the United States gave a lot of attention to the 2014 water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The media’s attention to the issue made lots of people around the country care about it and made it a critical topic of discussion in debates during the 2016 election. Similarly, the press’s attention to the George Floyd protests in June 2020 made people around the world care more about the issue of police brutality and systemic racism.
In contrast, when the media removes itself from local issues, communities are often left to fend for themselves. Without the press to highlight problems, it is hard for local level issues to reach the attention of those who can truly take impactful action. For example, in East St. Louis, Illinois, chemical plants have been releasing deadly toxins for decades and exposing communities to raw sewage. A few media outlets have reported on this issue but nowhere close to the amount that could encourage political actors to take action. This situation makes the media’s influence more poignant because it could make a huge difference in this community by highlighting the injustices there but fails to do so.
Similarly, when it comes to local elections, the media’s involvement or lack of involvement can play a huge role, especially in the age of social media. If people across the United States read in mainstream news sources about the importance of a local election in a specific state, they might encourage more people in that state to vote. But if the media does not underscore the importance of a local election, then only the people in that community would know about it and might not take voting as seriously.