Stop saying local news is dying

We started 2019 with Gannett layoffs at local newspapers, we’re ending  2019 with Gannett layoffs at local newspapers, and Ken Doctor’s look at continued newspaper consolidation in 2020 is devastating. It’s quite the end to quite a decade. News deserts, or places without news, have spread in the last 10 years, and they’ve most seriously…

Stop saying local news is dying

We started 2019 with Gannett layoffs at local newspapers, we’re ending  2019 with Gannett layoffs at local newspapers, and Ken Doctor’s look at continued newspaper consolidation in 2020 is devastating.
It’s quite the end to quite a decade.
News deserts, or places without news, have spread in the last 10 years, and they’ve most seriously hurt places that have poor and underserved populations, said the University of North Carolina’s Penny Muse Abernathy, who has tracked news deserts. Less local news has also led to lower voter turnout and increased political polarization.
The business of local news is in trouble, Clara Henderickson wrote in a recent report for The Brookings Institution.
“This is a serious public problem; those who read, listen, and watch the news are not just consumers, but citizens that rely on news publishers to meet the demands of living in a democracy.”
The headlines this year have been in agreement – local news is dying.
But those headlines are wrong.
When they say “local news is dying,” they really mean local newspapers. And even that’s not specific enough, when it’s really about hedge fund- and chain-owned newspapers.
Local newspapers, specifically those that are locally and independently owned, are not dying. They are changing.
It’s rough.
But it is not death.
In Whiteville, North Carolina, the tiny News Reporter has replaced money lost from advertising with money made from subscriptions, publisher Les High told me in September, “almost to the dollar.”
The Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia, recently doubled digital subscriptions after a rough run that included bankruptcy, a sale and layoffs. By the end of 2020, publisher Jim Heady expects digital subscriptions will make up 20% of circulation revenue.
The Seattle Times raised more than $4 million in four years to cover critical issues, and this year turned its approach for harnessing philanthropic money for local news into investigative journalism. That fund has, so far, raised more than $700,000. And it’s being copied by the Miami Herald, a McClatchy paper, and the Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns.
Related: It’s time to stop saying ‘old media’
Still ready to sing the dirge of local news?
OK, let’s talk about what’s happening with local news online.
You probably know that Texas Tribune is thriving. Did you know it’s just created a local news and revenue training lab to help other local news
Read More From Publisher