By some estimates, one-third of the newspapers that existed in the U.S. in 2005 will be gone by 2025. Some 70 million Americans already live in “news deserts,” or will soon. In the United Kingdom, 320 local newspapers closed between 2009 and 2019. The private equity firms that have been buying up news organizations tend to make things worse. Rather than investing in journalism, their focus is on ruthlessly reducing the size of newsrooms and selling off newspaper buildings (many of which are in lucrative downtown locations).
The implications for democracy are beyond debate. Social scientists who study the issue have demonstrated clearly that less local journalism results in higher levels of corruption, undermines political competition and reduces citizen engagement.
The Society of Professional Journalists is concerned about the increased number of layoffs to journalists in 2023. This year has seen a record number of media job cuts with the most recent being LAist, run by Southern California Public Radio, and dot.LA, which focuses on tech and startup news. LAist announced Tuesday that it is eliminating 21 positions, 10% of staff, as part of a restructuring due to a revenue shortfall. Dot.LA laid off its entire editorial staff of seven journalists on Monday as it shifts focus to newsletters.
Thursday, SPJ expressed concern over the Los Angeles Times elimination of 74 positions, about 13% of staff. At the time, SPJ Vice President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins said, “This is yet another sign of a disturbing trend across our industry. When newsroom management makes these kinds of cuts, the public becomes less informed, which puts our very Democracy at risk.” A new report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, found at least 17,436 jobs have been cut as of May 31, a 315% increase from this time last year. This is the highest amount of job cuts on record, including surpassing cuts made during the beginning of the pandemic.