News deserts have increased since 2004, and continue to show an upward trend. A news desert arises when a community does not have the resources to maintain its local newspapers, causing original reporting to decline. News deserts drastically affect the lives of the citizens that relied on the now dried-up newspapers by making it harder for them to find out information. It becomes harder for people to find out what is going on in their community's political climate. The absence of a local newspaper also makes citizens feel as if they are detached from the community.
News deserts mean peril for the communities they encounter, and they are even more likely to encounter communities that are less affluent. The founder of the Democracy Collaborative is concerned about the future of politics that comes with the spread of news deserts, saying, "When reliable local reporting dries up, voter turnout falls and so does the number of candidates for local office."
The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is researching news deserts and their impact small communities. The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media is led by a professor from the university, who is working with a research team to produce a fall report this year that describes the fate of newspapers, solutions for preventing news deserts and how other demographic factors contribute to their spread.