A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Washington Post: Every week, two more newspapers close — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger

The Washington Post published a story a few days ago about newspaper closures in the US.

Every week, two more newspapers close — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger

In poorer, less-wired parts of the U.S., it’s harder to find credible news about your local community. That has dire implications for democracy.

Perspective by Margaret Sullivan
Columnist
June 29, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. EDT

Penelope Muse Abernathy may be the nation’s foremost expert on what media researchers call “news deserts”— and she’s worried.

News deserts are communities lacking a news source that provides meaningful and trustworthy local reporting on issues such as health, government and the environment. It’s a vacuum that leaves residents ignorant of what’s going on in their world, incapable of fully participating as informed citizens. What’s their local government up to? Who deserves their vote? How are their tax dollars being spent? All are questions that go unanswered in a news desert.

Local newspapers are hardly the only news sources that can do the job, but they are the ones that have traditionally filled that role. And they are disappearing.

One-third of American newspapers that existed roughly two decades ago will be out of business by 2025, according to research made public Wednesday from Northwestern University’s Medill School, where Abernathy is a visiting professor.

Already, some 2,500 dailies and weeklies have shuttered since 2005; there are fewer than 6,500 left. Every week, two more disappear. And although many digital-only news sites have cropped up around the nation, most communities that lost a local newspaper will not get a print or digital replacement.

“What’s discouraging is that this trend plays into, and worsens, the whole divide we see in America,” Abernathy, the report’s principal author, told me this week.

The neediest areas — those that are more remote, poorer and less wired — are the ones that get hurt the worst. Most of the new investment and innovation pouring into the media sector, as valuable and needed as it is, doesn’t reach these regions.

Be sure to read the article.

Here in Australia, when I would write about challenges to newspapers, some from publishing companies would respond saying I was ignorant, wrong or irrelevant. Whatever. The reality is that the purpose of newspapers has changed. What we are witnessing is the management of the softest crash landing they can manage – for themselves. yes, they are focussed on the impact on their businesses, with little or no regard to the businesses that have partnered with them for 100+ years.

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Media disruption

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