Hayes says when papers close or cut coverage, people are less able to identify who's running, know the candidate's issue positions and, ultimately, are less likely to vote
"When local papers cut coverage there's essentially nothing to take its place in these local communities," he says, adding while there have been many online local news experiments they tend to be in already media-rich environments or not as focused on public affairs.
This effect happens to everyone, Hayes says, even those who are considered politically engaged.
"I suspect over the long term, people who are pretty politically engaged figure out ways to sort of maintain their level of participation," he says.
"I'm not sure they'll be necessarily as knowledgeable as they were."
David Simon of The Wire sounding the same alarm a decade ago