What are the implications for local coverage and civic engagement? The cratering of newspapers’ business models has led to a well-documented decline in local and state coverage as well as a corresponding surge of interest in mission-oriented nonprofits and other digital startups attempting to fill the void. But even the best, most engagement-oriented of these sites, like Voice of San Diego and Texas Tribune, represent the unbundling of state and local news from the rest of the newspaper.

Could local news sites and newspapers learn from the new national and global entrants about how to combine hard news reporting with other elements of the news bundle? Will someone find a way to make local for-profit digital news sustainable and scalable? Would converting local newspapers to nonprofits help make them sustainable and preserve their remaining civic value? The way forward isn’t clear, but if we want to retain the civic benefits of newspapers, some innovator must find new ways to bundle the news we want with the news we need.

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Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. He blogs at brendan-nyhan.com and tweets @BrendanNyhan.