Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Local News Deserts in China: The Role of Social Media and Personal Communication Networks

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Abstract:  The field of local news is often associated with news deserts, commonly defined as geo-based communities without newspapers or other legacy media as providers of locally oriented news and civic information. This phenomenon is expanding in global society due to the diminishing presence of newspapers at moments of accelerated digitization. This study examines the multiplex nature of news deserts in rural and suburban areas in China. Data were collected through a multi-methods approach combining two focus groups and 44 semi-structured in-depth interviews. Patterns of engagement among interviewees reveal that smartphone-based social media applications and digital platforms function as viable sources of news, and incidental exposure to news has become the norm of digital news use. Government-orchestrated convergent media services and WeChat channels are preferred choices by most research participants for local news. We argue that a media ecology perspective may be a productive approach to understanding community news and local newspapers.

Keywords:  China; community news; Convergent Media; media ecology; news desert; social media; WeChat



© Zixue Tai, Bai He, Jianping Liu. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.