The expression appears in the United States in the end of the first decade of 21st century in studies about the impact of journalism crisis on local news media. Penelope Abernathy, principal researcher in USA, define News Desert as:
“A community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level”.
The Expanding News Desert report, published by Abernathy in Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economic, points out that in the US, most residents living in a news desert are poorer, older, and less educated than most Americans.
This is because communities are far from metropolises, with low economic activity and most susceptible to the crisis of journalism. The local newspapers have few readers and revenues to keep the newspapers open. These communities are the first to have their newspapers closed in an economic crash, like the one that happened in 2008 or 2011.
Most of these newspapers are produced for an older audience and therefore, they are unable to make the transition to the digital environment in times of economic crash. The local media finds another problem in this transition: the difficulty of making money on the internet due to the distrust of local advertisers and the algorithms used for monetizing in digital platforms, which force local websites to have a big audience, impossible to achieve little communities.
Thus, a “news desert” emerges in regions far from metropolises, with low economic activity, where the old local newspapers can no longer sustain themselves and the community is not attractive for new journalistic projects.