Purdue University trustees will take up a request Wednesday to give up ownership of WBAA, the NPR member station in West Lafayette. The negotiations with WFYI in Indianapolis are part of a national trend in the loss of local news from acquisitions and mergers.
When larger organizations take over local newsrooms, they often cut staff and get rid of office space, reducing coverage of local issues.
Louisiana State University political communication assistant professor Joshua Darr has been studying the harm to communities that lose local news outlets.
“One of the main things local news outlets do is provide that emotional connection, right? They bind together – their whole listening area, viewing area, readership area – around the common identity of what's happening in the papers,” said Darr.
WFYI and Purdue have released limited information about the deal. Darr said it appears the station plans to maintain a physical location and local news presence, which could bring economic benefits.
“But whether or not they'll be able to talk as much about university-town relations and city hall, city council type stuff, depends on there being a local presence and a local office for the station,” he said.
To measure the effects of a potential deal, Darr said community members will need to listen for whether there’s a decline in the local character and quality of the station from hosts to programming.
Disclosure: WBAA and WFYI are both members of Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. Samantha Horton is employed by WFYI, but is part of the editorially-independent statewide newsroom.