Abstract: An emerging body of research addresses how news deserts cause democratic deficits. This literature is mostly concerned with the closure of local news outlets. The present study was carried out in Norway, a country characterised by rich local media infrastructure. However, recruiting skilled and trained journalists to staff this infrastructure is challenging. Based on qualitative interviews with editors and journalism students (N = 21), this article explores the lack of skilled local journalists at small local newspapers, through a job attractiveness lens, and exposes how economic, geographic, and professional prestige factors contribute to labour deficits, identified as a brain drain threat in local journalism. The study expands the news desert research beyond the closure of local newspapers to encompass journalist labour deficits in an otherwise stable and diverse local media environment and discusses professional, societal, and political implications of the recruitment problem.