The Prince George’s Sentinel newspaper is gone. The Sentinel, which had covered the county for nearly 90 years, joined its Montgomery County sister paper and published their final editions Thursday. The move was announced earlier in January by publisher Lynn Kapiloff, who said the twin papers had not been profitable for more than a decade.
Now, suddenly, vast swaths of Prince George’s County have become a true news desert, with no reliable source of professional reporting on public affairs. While the quality and consistency of the Prince George’s Sentinel’s reporting left something to be desired, the Seabrook-based paper reliably dispatched journalists to all corners of the county in search of news. In the last two weeks alone, its journalists filed stories eminating from Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Upper Marlboro, Temple Hills, Oxon Hill, College Park, Bowie, New Carrolton, and Lanham. Since the closure of the Prince George’s Gazette in 2015, the Sentinel was often the only news outlet paying attention to policy matters in Prince George’s County, especially in southern Prince George’s County.
Residents of the Northern Prince George’s County Route 1 corridor can take some solace that their neighborhoods will be less-affected by the departure of the Sentiel. The Route 1 corridor is served by several hyperlocal publications including Route 1 Reporter, Hyattsville Life & Times, The Diamondback, and the Hyattsville Wire. But none of these organizations, Route 1 Reporter included, has the resources necessary to cover all the communities in a county of more than 800,000 people.
Southern Prince George’s County communities, on the other hand, now have no one covering their news in a regular way. It’s hard to ignore the racial context of that emerging disparity: Northern Prince George’s County communities, which have a larger share of white population, will continue to have some modicum of dedicated local coverage, while the predominantly African-American communities in the southern half of Prince George’s languish in news deserts.