At “Accelerate: Local News,” a summit being held by Facebook, Online News Association and the Knight Foundation this week, optimism about the future is fighting profound pain about the past and present.

Local newsrooms have lost half of their reporting muscle in the past ten years. Papers have lost almost half of their daily circulation. And all this has happened while Google and Facebook have gained power. The result: “Ghost newspapers.”

Big Tech execs say they’re here to help. But many journalists are skeptical…

Are there “ghosts” where you live?

This event is being held under Chatham House Rules, so I can’t name the speakers, but here’s the tech giant’s message: “We care deeply about local news, on and off of Facebook.” When Facebook surveys users about what news they want to see more of, “local news is #1 by far.” But, as the company said earlier this week, its own research has found a huge number of info-starved “news deserts.”

The takeaway: “One in three users live in places where we can’t find much local news.”

Facebook: 40% of Americans live in areas lacking local news coverage

Some states are better-informed than others… Arizona, for instance, is a stronger local news state than New Jersey, according to FB. Many of these communities still have daily or weekly papers, but they are shells of their former selves — “ghosts,” as UNC’s Penelope Abernathy likes to describe them. One of the presentations at this summit on Tuesday was about “the rise of ghost newspapers” — a phenomenon that disproportionately hurts “very vulnerable citizens” in rural areas.

Key quote: “There’s a lot of research that shows that when metros pull out of outlying areas, either in terms of reporters or circulation, political activity goes down and political participation goes down.”

FB is going to start sharing raw data with Abernathy and three other experts in this space… To better understand what’s being consumed on FB in areas that are full of ghosts…

Facebook grahpic

Map from Facebook shows where its news service is offered.

Incredible collaboration in California

This effort will inspire you. Newsrooms throughout California — 33 so far — are working together to publish police misconduct records.

It’s called the California Reporting Project. Quoting from a press release: “This unprecedented cooperation between 33 of California’s newsrooms will shine a light on police misconduct and use of force. The newsrooms have agreed to set aside competition and work collaboratively given the public service this reporting will provide.”

In theory, these records have recently become public under a new transparency law. But in practice, many law enforcement agencies have been slow to share the data. So newsrooms large and small are pressing for the info — from 675 agencies in all 58 counties so far.

So many outlets are involved… CALmatters, LAist, LA Times, Woodland Daily Democrat, Press Democrat, SF Chronicle, Voice of San Diego, and so many more. The LA Times has a list of the stories “uncovered so far…”

Apple putting its muscle into media literacy efforts

Apple is becoming the latest Big Tech player to team up with media literacy programs. Tim Cook’s Tuesday statement: “News literacy is vital to sustaining a free press and thriving democracy, and we are proud to be collaborating with organizations on the front lines of this effort.”

Three organizations are receiving support: News Literacy Project and Common Sense in the United States and Osservatorio in Italy…

This announcement stokes speculation about what Apple will say re: its news efforts at next week’s press event.