The US is quickly losing its stable of local newspapers and along with it, a crucial piece of the puzzle in tracking infectious disease outbreaks.
Local news reports help outbreak investigators skirt the red tape around getting official data. In Arkansas, local reporting on vaccine refusal rates helped explain a massive mumps outbreak.
Surveillance systems that track the web for disease clues anticipate missing swathes of information in “news deserts." Increasingly there are “pockets of the US where we’re just not going to have a particularly good signal anymore,” says Maia Majumder, a fellow at the disease detection project HealthMap.