More than 360 newspapers have been closed since just before the start of the pandemic

The pandemic has been bad for the country’s local newspapers. But perhaps not as bad as some feared.

More than 360 newspapers in the United States have been out of business since just before the start of the pandemic, according to A new report from Northwest University Journalism School.

The same pace – about two shutdowns per week – was happening before the pandemic. Many analysts in the newspaper thought that the economic situation created by the corona virus, especially the decline in advertising, would increase the rate significantly.

“The good news is that there were a lot of fears as the pandemic and we had a very severe economic blockade that it was going to be like the death knell for many newspapers,” said report author Penelope Muse Abernathy. Visiting Professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “The good news is that didn’t happen. The bad news is, or the related news, that we’re losing newspapers at the same rate we’ve been losing them since 2005.”

The report said the shutdown has ended the problem of so-called news deserts – places with limited access to local news. More than one-fifth of Americans now live in, or live in, a place where one is at risk.

In all, 2,500 newspapers in the United States – a quarter of them – have been closed since 2005. The country is set to lose a third of its newspapers by 2025. And in many places, the remaining local media outlets have cut staff and circulation.

The report finds that investment in local journalism is primarily focused on the larger markets. This has fueled inequality between high-quality news organizations and those communities without it.

Abernathy said, “What it does is that it feeds into a nation that is divided in journalism, and when you divide a nation in journalism, it widens our political, cultural and economic divide.”

According to the report, major media companies, such as Gannett, which are perceived as a solution to the threat facing local journalism, are quick to sell or close down failing newspapers. The report said that privately-owned regional media companies “have no obligation to explain their strategic and financial decisions, identify their largest shareholders, and report annual earnings”.

“The truth of the matter is, who I choose for the school board affects me more than I vote for president,” Abernathy said. “So we have to go back to rebuilding local news in these struggling communities.”

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