Newspapers, up and down the state of California say they have become collateral damage from the state’s effort to rein in the gig economy. Combine that with drastic drops in advertising revenue, especially in smaller community newspapers; ever-increasing cost of printing and circulation costs, and the massive impact social media, and the internet in general, has had on the business for a not so perfect storm. The digital beast is ever-tightening the rope around conventional newspapers’ necks.
Newspapers are going out of business, cutting staff, while some are hoping there’s a sustainable future in online publishing. Newspaper owners and publishers are scratching their collective heads and trying to come up with ways in which to stay afloat and keep the communities they serve abreast of local happenings — that which the big daily papers simply do not or can’t cover.
Some newspapers are cutting staff to bare bones and subsequently cutting circulation in a Herculean effort to stay afloat.
Locally, last week three Los Angeles Times owned community newspapers were shuttered: The Glendale News Press, Burbank Leader and LaCañada Valley Sun.
This is a trend that has been plummeting for years. In fact, according to the New York Times, one in five papers has been lost in recent years bringing the total closed to over 2,000 in the past decade.
Between 2004 and 2018 California lost the most daily papers of any state; it saw 15% of its papers shuttered. In 2018 circulation was down 38 percent across dailies and weeklies, with two counties in California lacking a paper altogether.
“City Council and school board meetings. Small-town sports and politics. Local government corruption. These are just a handful of the news and issues that go unreported when small newspapers close or are gutted by layoffs. Over the past 15 years, more than one in five papers in the United States has shuttered, and the number of journalists working for newspapers has been cut in half, according to research by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism,” wrote Lara Takenaga for The New York Times.
To illustrate the importance of community newspapers, one senior citizen recently called us recently requesting a hard copy of the newspaper — she has no access to the internet. She is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens across the globe have depended on their newspapers for local news and entertainment. A recent municipal election in Arcadia, whose importance was deeply thwarted by COVID-19, sparked several calls to the newsroom wanting to know the results.
Again these calls were predominantly from seniors or people who did not have access to internet.
In London during the 1960s and 1970s, there were several editions printed of every daily newspaper: morning, afternoon and evening editions — incredible to think of today. And, if there was a major event, like JFK’s assassination in 1963, and extra special edition —EXTRA! EXTRA! — would flood the streets.
In addition to all that has ailed this business, enter a pandemic named COVID-19. Even as interest and media consumption soars due to the pandemic, publishers continue to struggle as advertisers reduce their spending. According to reporting the LAist, the Southern California News Group cited “plummeting advertising revenue as a result of the COVID-19 crisis” when it furloughed 50 employees across its newsrooms and let others go.
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