The pandemic was bad for the country’s local newspapers. But maybe not as bad as some feared.
More than 360 newspapers in the United States disappeared before the pandemic, according to a new report from Northwestern University School of Journalism.
The same pace – about two closures a week – was happening before the pandemic. Many newspaper analysts thought that the economic conditions created by the coronavirus, especially the decline in advertising, had led to a significant increase in the rate.
“The good news is that there was a lot of fear at the start of the pandemic and we were in so much economic hardship that it would be a death knell for many newspapers,” said Penelope Muze Abernati, author of the report. And Visiting Professor Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “The good news is that it did not happen. The bad news is, or disturbing, that we continue to lose newspapers at the same rate as we have lost them since 2005. “
The closure continued the problem of so-called news deserts – places with limited access to local news, the report said. More than a fifth of Americans now live in such a place, or a place where they are at risk.
In all, 2,500 newspapers in the United States – a quarter of them – have been closed since 2005. The country will lose a third of its newspapers by 2025. And in many places, the surviving local media outlets have made significant cuts. Staff and circulation.
Investments in local journalism are mainly focused on larger markets, the report said. This has led to inequality with and without access to high quality news organizations.
“What it is doing is feeding a nation that is divided by journalism, and when you have a nation divided by journalism, it intensifies our political, cultural and economic divisions,” Ms Abernati said.
Major media companies such as Gannett, seen as a solution to the threat posed by local journalism, are rapidly selling or closing unsuccessful newspapers, the report said. Moreover, privately owned regional media companies that “have no obligation to explain their strategic and financial decisions, identify their largest shareholders and record annual revenue” have bought many failed newspapers, the report said.
“The truth is, who I elect to the school board affects me much more than who I vote for as president,” Ms Abernati said. “So we have to go back to restoring local news in these difficult communities.”