The study is in the process of being peer reviewed and hasn’t been published in a journal. The authors analyzed 204 counties with a single newspaper that closed between 1996 and 2015. They found local borrowing costs rose by up to 11 basis points more than they otherwise would. Government efficiency diminished as well. “Wage rates, government employees per capita, tax dollars per capita, and the likelihoods of costly advance re-fundings and negotiated sales all increase following a newspaper closure,” according to the report. The report said local leaders may feel like they can do things differently without the scrutiny of a local newspaper there to report on local government actions. “If local governments are no longer being watched as closely, then they’re more likely to engage in bad behavior and more likely to become inefficient,” said Dermot Murphy, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and one of the authors of the paper. Even the presence of an investigative reporter would likely give public officials pause before they did something that could become next Sunday’s headline. “There is more temptation for government leaders to just do what they want without feeling like there would be any consequences or anybody paying attention,” said Doug Haddix, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. Cash-strapped newsrooms have cut back on investigative reporting amid layoffs and other cutbacks. In some cases newspapers do less digging, but publish more shorter stories.

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