April 26, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, newsrooms are weakened by layoffs, cutbacks, furloughs and closures that could bring the death of print. The media industry has been struggling for the past decade as readers continue to gravitate to online sources. While national publications like the Wall Street Journal, The Post and the Times continue to do well because of their wide base of national advertisers and millions of digital subscribers, smaller news organizations are the ones left struggling.

Could this be the death of print?

Unlike national publications, small news organizations rely on local readers and local advertisers. Many of their advertisers have stopped buying ads as they face the economic fallout of a nation stuck in quarantine. The Tampa Bay Times laid off 11 journalists and stopped five days of its print edition. Seattle’s Pulitzer-winning weekly the Stranger laid off 18 staffers and stopped printing altogether. There have been layoffs at the Denver Post and Boston Herald and salary cuts at the Dallas Morning News.

Alternative Weeklies/Free Weeklies

Alternative weeklies and city magazines, dependent on ads from restaurants, museums and local attractions, were the first to hang out urgent appeals for reader donations; several have closed and others are contemplating it. Locally in Chicagoland, 22nd Century Media which publishes neighborhood weeklies like the Northbrook Tower, Wilmette Beacon, Winnetka Current and many other North Suburban and surrounding suburban Chicago weeklies closed their doors. It started with a desperate 11th hour plea to receive subscriber donations. Then, their initial plan was to go all digital and stay in operation. Finally, they concluded that it was best to close their doors altogether.Media-business analyst Rick Edmonds of the nonprofit Poynter Institute, a journalism education organization, said some news companies may have to resort to applying for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. This is the federal government’s newly created plan for small businesses. News organizations have resisted government loans because they may pose a conflict of interest in reporting about the government.

Surprising Lifeline?

Facebook and Google have offered small lifelines to news organizations. Recently, Facebook pledged $100 million in grants to help news organizations, most of it in the form of ad purchases. In addition, Google pledged $300 million to news outlets long before the coronavirus outbreak but is still ongoing. It’s ironic that these platforms are the ones helping as they are likely the reason why news companies are dying.Journalists have seen years of trims and cutbacks and now the coronavirus crisis could be the last straw.Carolina Macedo, the author, is Project Coordinator of Marketing Keys.

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April 26, 2020