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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Decline of Local News

 Penelope Muse Abernathy and Tim Franklin, "The State of Local News 2022" (Northwestern Univerity, Medill School, October 4, 2022).

Newspapers are continuing to vanish at a rapid rate. An average of more than two a week are disappearing. Since 2005, the country has lost more than a fourth of its newspapers (2,500) and is on track to lose a third by 2025. Even though the pandemic was not the catastrophic “extinction-level event” some feared, the country lost more than 360 newspapers between the waning pre-pandemic months of late 2019 and the end of May 2022. All but 24 of those papers were weeklies, serving communities ranging in size from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. Most communities that lose a newspaper do not get a digital or print replacement. The country has 6,380 surviving papers: 1,230 dailies and 5,150 weeklies. 

Digital alternatives remain scarce, despite an increase in corporate and philanthropic funding. Over the past two years, the number of new digital-only state and local news sites, 64, slightly exceeded the number of sites that went dark. In 2022, there are 545 digital-only state and local sites; most employ six or fewer full-time reporters. Each state has at least one digital-only outlet. However, even established local digital The State of Local News 2022 | Page 5news organizations often fail to attract the monthly traffic of television and local newspaper sites, somewhat diminishing the impact of the stories they produce. Four out of ten local sites are now nonprofit, supported by a combination of grants, sponsorship and donations. But whether nonprofit or for-profit, the vast majority of those sites are located in larger cities, leaving much of the rest of the country uncovered.