Maybe you’ve seen the statistics: nearly 70% of counties in the United States do not have a daily newspaper. Since 2004, one-fourth (2,100) of the daily and weekly newspapers in the United States have permanently closed. And maybe you’ve read that when communities lose their newspaper, they lose a bulwark of democracy, an institution dedicated to the public good through the dissemination of factual, verified information.
But you might not know that, unlike many communities, Lancaster County has a nonprofit organization, the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund, that is actively engaged in supporting the work of local journalists.
Since November 2021, the fund has been financing the work of an unassuming Clark Kent of a journalist, Carter Walker.
Quiet and thoughtful, Carter is a regular Lancaster County guy. In his free time, you may find him taking down an 8-point buck with his Prime Rize compound bow or using the auto mechanic skills he learned on YouTube to decarbonize the intake valves on his VW.
But Carter’s day job is to report on extremism and misinformation in Lancaster County.
From Carter’s perspective, the importance of this topic crosses party lines. “I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans, and you know, these are things that don’t represent them,” Carter says. “They’re not Christian nationalists, and they’re not members of a militia, and they don’t believe the election was stolen. So, I hope my reporting is for that sector of the party, which I think is a silent majority that doesn’t view themselves as being represented by these movements.”
Carter’s role in reporting on extremism is not to drum extremists out of town. It is simply to let local citizens know about extremist groups in our area so that people can have informed opinions and make their own thoughtful decisions.
In his role, Carter is careful to not sensationalize the topic. “I see calls to violence quite frequently on the left and right and I choose not to report on those things, because I don’t think that that’s rhetoric that’s very responsible to be amplifying,” he says.
Carter is committed to accuracy in reporting. In fact, while drafting one recent story on a controversial topic, he used superscript to note the source of each fact, for his own reference, in case someone challenged his reporting. “You know, of course, I get complaints about my work, but nobody ever actually complains about the facts in my story,” he says.
You can read Carter’s work here: lancasteronline.com/staff/carterwalker.
The Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund is just beginning its work in the county, with new topics planned for funding.
The importance of this work cannot be overstated. “You have the big guys, the networks, the CNNs, but local journalism is what builds that local community,” says Enelly Betancourt, a staff writer with LNP|LancasterOnline for 27 years and editor of LaVoz Lancaster, which focuses on the Hispanic community. “How else would people have conversations about affordable housing, or the rate of crime in the Lancaster County community or what’s going on in our schools? A community that doesn’t have that is a community that does not grow.”
In addition to funding local journalism, the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund board plans to create opportunities for citizens to share what they feel are important issues facing their communities, thus allowing all of us to have a voice in driving positive local change.
Members of the public can donate to the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund by clicking here, or during this year’s Extraordinary Give on November 18th.