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March 19, 2020, 12:28 p.m.

“Total annihilation”: Coronavirus may just be the end for many alt-weeklies

COVID-19 is “a nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies.” In dozens of cities, papers are asking for donations, laying off staff, or abandoning print as social distancing dries up their revenue streams.

It was only seven days ago that we told you about The Stranger, the Seattle alt-(bi)weekly that was facing a financial crisis because of the city’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which shut down concerts, bars, restaurants, and so many other events that provide the advertising fuel for an alt-weekly. “Ninety percent of our revenue — advertising, ticketing fees, and our own events — is directly tied to people getting together in groups,” the paper wrote in asking for donations. “The coronavirus situation has virtually eliminated this income all at once.”

But what a seven days it’s been. Since then, Seattle’s early and aggressive response to its hotspot status has spread nationwide. And the impact on The Stranger’s peers in city after city has been truly crushing. This has, without a doubt, been the single worst week in the history of America’s alternative press. They’re facing a double blow: Not only have their main advertising sources dried up, so have their main points of distribution. (Where do you pick up an alt-weekly? At a bar, at a restaurant, at a theater — all the places that have gone dark.)

A well-capitalized company with confidence in its long-term future may have the luxury of seeing the coronavirus response as a temporary obstacle. Yeah, it’ll be painful — but eventually things will go back to some version of normal and the old revenue engines can restart. But alt-weeklies have been in some version of crisis mode for the better part of a decade, as smartphones, online events listings, and social media have each moved against their core offerings. It’s entirely unclear whether “normal” is two weeks away, two months away, or two years away. And when cities do recover, will those institutions alts rely on — those arts venues, those theaters, those restaurants — be in any kind of shape to help?

You can see the seriousness of this week in the language alts’ editors and owners are using: “This issue of the print newspaper is the last one for the foreseeable future.” “This time is different.” “It could be the end.”

We’ve written far more over the past decade about the struggles of daily newspapers than alt-weeklies — which is understandable, given that the raw power of a daily’s newsroom is, whatever its flaws, critical to any city’s news environment. But dailies have subscription revenue to rely on, shrinking in print but growing online. They still have the largest reporting capacity in just about every city. For all the trouble they’re in, you can at least squint and see a sustainable future in some deeply transformed shape. Alt-weeklies — well, it’s harder to see that.

All but a few of the alt-weeklies I’ve seen are actively telling their readers about their sudden revenue shortfall and asking them to join their membership plan or to make a donation. (That request is complicated by the fact that nearly all alt-weeklies are for-profit companies, not charities for whom a donation could be tax-deductible.) Those whose cities have been hit harder are laying off staff, suspending or reducing print, or both. The majority of these cuts have been made in the past 48 hours — a sign of how quickly this is accelerating. And it’s likely that things will get worse if/when cities tighten their restrictions further — like moving from encouraging social distancing and closing institutions to shelter-in-place orders and enforced curfews.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a version of this financial virus is likely to hit city magazines hard too, as is happening at Washingtonian. And local news and arts sites, like D.C.’s Brightest Young Things, whose founder told DCist: “I have spent 14 years trying to diversify us enough that we are never at the risk of one thing going south. And in two weeks, it’s like a switch has been flipped and we don’t exist anymore as a business.” All local print and digital media will face some version of this pain; alt-weeklies are just the first canary to feel woozy.

Here is a (necessarily incomplete) list of some of the cuts, closures, suspensions, and other damage done to alt-weeklies in this very altered week, arranged in order west to east, from sea to shining sea.

[Update, Mar. 20: Within a few hours of publishing this piece, two more alt-weeklies announced they would stop publishing: Isthmus in Madison, Wisc., and The Pulse in Chattanooga, Tenn. I’ve added them in below.]

[Update, Mar. 21: I’ve added in a few more: Eugene Weekly, Palo Alto Weekly, San Diego Reader, Salt Lake City Weekly, Weekly Alibi (Albuquerque), Little Village (Iowa City), Oklahoma Gazette (Oklahoma City), Shepherd Express (Milwaukee), Jackson Free Press, City Pulse (Lansing), Mountain Xpress (Asheville), and Rochester City Paper. Thankfully, most are “just” asking for donations — but Oklahoma Gazette and Shepherd Express are both suspending publication and Mountain Xpress laid off 7 staffers.]

OREGON: Eugene Weekly. Seeking donations.

Good journalism takes dedication and digging. It requires long hours, hard work and passion. And it takes money. As our mission has grown at Eugene Weekly, and in the face of COVID-19, we want to ask for your help…Unlike most other newspapers, EW’s owners take no profit from the paper.

You can support EW by just picking up a paper, supporting our advertisers and telling them you saw their ad “in the Weekly.” You can also support us with a monetary contribution that goes directly to supporting our journalism…

We are not a nonprofit, so your contributions are not tax deductible. And we won’t spend your money to send you buttons, T-shirt or a tote bag. But that said, those are fun and if you want some EW merch that shows you care, please drop by our office at 1251 Lincoln Street and we will give you an appreciation gift for your contribution.

OREGON: Portland Mercury. Suspending print, laid off 10 staffers, asking for donations. Editor-in-chief Wm. Steven Humphrey:

We love our [print] newspaper, and we look at it as our personal art project — but it’s just too expensive to produce right now. We hope this scenario will change and we’ll eventually return to publishing our fun, feisty biweekly, which is our first and greatest love. That’s certainly what we’re fighting for, and time will ultimately tell if that’s possible. Fingers crossed!

Secondly, we’ve temporarily laid off 10 members of our beloved staff, spanning editorial, calendar, sales, and circulation, while simultaneously making deep cuts to the remaining managers’ salaries. Simply put, losing these employees, even temporarily, is fucking heartbreaking…

Will the Mercury be back in full force after all this has returned to normal? I think so. I hope so. You can bet your ass we’ll be trying and fighting as hard as we can — because this city, and everyone in it, is worth it.

WASHINGTON: The Stranger, Seattle. Suspended print publication, laid off 18 staffers. Editor Christopher Frizzelle:

Due to the hellscape of unforeseen economic events brought on by the coronavirus, The Stranger temporarily laid off 18 employees today. The personnel cuts came from virtually every department, including sales, ad design, editorial design, production, distribution, accounting, calendar, and editorial.

Additionally, The Stranger is suspending production of our print issue. It is our hope that after weathering this storm, we will be able to bring back the print edition and all the staffers whose work goes into creating it…

Though it is a challenging environment for everyone, we are up for the challenge, and we are going to be back and better than ever, damn it.

CALIFORNIA: Palo Alto Weekly. Seeking subscriptions (the site normally has a paywall, which it’s taken down for COVID-19). Publisher Bill Johnson:

Local news organizations and the journalists who work so hard to provide their communities with reliable and thoughtful news were facing financial challenges long before the COVID-19 crisis hit. But today’s public health emergency, and the economic devastation that threatens all small businesses, may very well be the final blow that ends local journalism as we know it…

I started our company 40 years ago with the help of 14 local residents who believed in the need for an independent and locally owned newspaper that would be responsive to the community and dedicated to producing thoughtful, quality journalism that is trusted and respected…

If readers who value journalism don’t step up to support their local newspapers and their websites now, many will become additional victims of the coronavirus crisis…Our ask is simple: Please join your many neighbors and support the work of our staff in bringing you the local news. For as little as $5 per month, you can make a difference.

CALIFORNIA: Monterey County Weekly. Layoffs and salary cuts. Editor Sara Rubin:

On March 17, Weekly Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve and Publisher Erik Cushman called an all-staff meeting to deliver some hard news: To get through this radical economic downturn, the company would lay of one-third of the staff. They had to immediately control expenses in hopes of the paper’s long-term survival, they announced.

“The Weekly absolutely relies on local, independent businesses, and while our advertisers are shut down, we made the difficult decision to reduce staff across all departments in order to weather the storm,” Zeve says. “Our whole business model is about bringing people together. And right now, people are physically isolated”…

Another three staff members’ hours have been reduced. Zeve cut his salary to zero, and Cushman also took a significant pay cut.

CALIFORNIA: Sacramento News & Review, Chico News & Review; NEVADA: Reno News & Review. Suspended print publishing and laid off nearly all staff across all three sister papers, “we hope only temporarily.” CEO Jeff vonKaenel:

It costs us roughly $45,000 a week to produce SN&R; that’s a little more than 10 cents for each of our 433,000 readers. The bulk of that cost is labor. This week we have less than $20,000 in expected revenue to cover $45,000 of expenses. That is our problem…

There is a misperception that content somehow just exists on the internet. That content needs to be created first. And that is our business. We are appealing to anyone who wants to help keep our journalism alive.

CALIFORNIA: Coachella Valley Independent. Asking for donations (“The strength of the support we get from readers who can afford it may very well determine whether the Independent makes it or not”), more announcements coming. Editor Jimmy Boegle:

I belong to a couple of organizations of smaller, local independent media, and the overriding sentiments among the editors and publishers I know are 1) a push and desire to cover and serve our communities better than ever during this unprecedented time; and 2) complete fear over the fact that almost all our organizations are facing an existential threat right now.

Virtually overnight, the Independent lost about three-quarters of our advertising revenue, maybe more. I know of newspapers around the country that have suspended their print versions, because almost all the ads are gone. I know small online news publishers who work from home and are taking about not being able to pay their rent…

I’ll share more info with you in the coming days about the Independent’s plans, at least as they stand now. (I will tell you this, though: We are gonna be here serving this community. We aren’t going anywhere.)

CALIFORNIA: San Diego Reader. Seeking donations.

The COVID-19 crisis is a major threat to The Reader’s future ability to provide San Diego a FREE alternative and entertaining voice. We pride ourselves on having navigated many storms as an independent and locally-owned media, but this time is different. To stay afloat during these weeks, we need your help…

We are asking for your help to support the continued coverage of everything happening in San Diego; to be an alternative voice in local politics, entertainment, the arts and more. We can’t say enough how much we appreciate your support. Thank you.

ARIZONA: Phoenix New Times; COLORADO: Westword, Denver; TEXAS: Dallas Observer, Houston Press; FLORIDA: Miami New Times (all part of Voice Media Group). All staff salaries cut at least 25 percent (35 percent for executives), layoffs “will very likely be necessary,” seeking donations. From a staff memo (shared by the new Voice Media Guild, which organized Phoenix and Miami in January):

The calendar says it will soon be spring. But our country is bracing for a long, cold winter…

Because of this, layoffs will very likely be necessary at VMG. We can’t yet tell you how many because we don’t know where the financial bottom will be in this ongoing crisis…

To be clear, [immediately cutting all staff salaries by 25 to 35 percent] will not make up for the current or anticipated decline in revenues. And let’s be frank: They may not be enough. If the environment gets worse, if the downturn lasts longer than we’re assuming, if our performance declines, we’ll have to reassess and make further moves.

Voice Media Group papers are all promoting or launching membership programs. Houston Press editor-in-chief Margaret Downing:

However, like so many of the people we write about, we’re not immune to the dramatic downturn in business caused by the pandemic. This week our staff was told our pay is being drastically cut and layoffs will follow. Operating budgets will be cut as well.

That’s why we’re launching a membership campaign. Our goal: Find 1,000 readers who’ll agree to make an annual or monthly contribution to the Press by April 30. In return, you’ll get a completely ad-free online reading experience, along with the knowledge that you’ve helped keep independent journalism alive.

UTAH: Salt Lake City Weekly. Seeking donations.

We need your help. City Weekly’s entire existence is directly tied to people getting together in groups — in clubs, restaurants, and at concerts and events — which are the industries most affected now.

The coronavirus pandemic has essentially wiped those sources of revenue overnight. At a time when Salt Lake City needs independent journalism more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support the continued coverage of everything important to all of us in our state, from life to lifestyle.

You can support us by making a one-time or recurring donation on, which is our 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to help fund local journalism.

NEW MEXICO: Weekly Alibi, Albuquerque. Seeking donations.

Weekly Alibi has been covering news, arts and entertainment for Albuquerque and the surrounding area since 1992, and we have no intention of slowing down. We are the independent media voice in Albuquerque print and we aim to stay that way.

The business model that has sustained journalism is changing. Local advertising support is very important, but it’s no longer enough to cover cost. Weekly Alibi is free, with no paywalls, no subscription fees. Help us stay that way.

If you believe in our mission, and protecting independent media, let’s be friends! Weekly Alibi is locally owned and locally operated. We are not national, corporate or syndicated. We’re one of the last.

TEXAS: San Antonio Current. Laid off 10 staffers.

“This is absolutely brutal — the worst-case scenario. Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate this, and we are heartbroken to have to let go of these hardworking and talented people,” Current Publisher Michael Wagner said. “My hope is that in the very near future, we can go back to business as usual. Until then, our very small but scrappy staff remains committed to San Antonio, our advertisers and to delivering journalism for the city we love.”

TEXAS: Austin Chronicle. Cutting from weekly to biweekly in print, asking for donations. The Chronicle was already hit hard financially by the cancellation of SXSW. And last night, a member of its staff tested positive for coronavirus, shutting down its office for 14 days. Editor Kimberley Jones:

What we’ve been doing at the Chronicle is likely what the rest of you have been doing — assessing the most urgent needs and focusing on those. For us, that’s mostly meant the breaking news stuff, reporting on the latest guidance from health authorities, the new rules on gathering, all the cancellations and closures and modified hours, and the restaurants reinventing their service models overnight to become takeout operations…

In these trying times, we’ve made the difficult decision to go to an every other week printing schedule. That means, for the first time since our first seven years of operation, you will not see a Chronicle on stands next week. But you will see us online, every day…

In this time of social distancing, staying connected matters now more than ever. If you aren’t doing so already, follow us on social media. Share our stories. Sign up for our newsletters. Find a community on our message boards. Buy a subscription to get the paper delivered to you, or support our work with a one-time or recurring donation.

OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma Gazette, Oklahoma City. Suspending print publication. Publisher Peter J. Brzycki:

For over 40 years, Oklahoma Gazette has proudly focused on arts, entertainment, live music, and events. Due to the recent public health crisis, almost all public gatherings we cover and promote have come to a complete halt.

Accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to pause our publication until the April 8th issue. In the meantime, we will continue to update

Please be safe and take care of one another.

IOWA: Little Village, Iowa City/Cedar Rapids. Seeking donations.

Now more than ever, Little Village needs your help. Much of our revenue is based on people gathering together for community events, and because of the far-reaching effects of COVID-19, this revenue is now at risk. We are already taking drastic measures to ensure Little Village’s survival amid this crisis. If you believe in our mission and the work we have done to build community over the last 19 years, please make a donation to support our continued operation. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support.

We’re on a mission to keep you informed and to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please support the journalists working around the clock to ask the questions, and verify in real time the status of the pandemic as it changes.

MISSOURI: Riverfront Times, St. Louis. Laid off “nearly our entire staff.” Editor-in-chief Doyle Murphy:

It turns out, COVID-19 also makes for a nearly perfect weapon against alternative weeklies. Across the country, papers are announcing salary cuts, layoffs or anything they can imagine to keep the lights on. That’s where we are today. We laid off nearly our entire staff this morning with the hope that if we act now, we can rebuild and bring them back later. It’s horrible and unfair, and it’s bad for St. Louis. I have worked in a lot of newsrooms, and this is the first where I have liked every single person on staff. They are smart and funny and talented in ways that make me jealous. We’re a better city when they are at work….

We could see it happening, but the speed has been stunning. One day, you’re a profitable newspaper, doing better every year; the next, almost all of your ad revenue is wiped out with no clear sign of when it will return…

It sucks. It does. But alt-weeklies have always been the underdog, and the RFT is one of the best in the country. Even after staffers learned the news today, they have continued to forward story tips and text me with ways they can help. They’re so dedicated to this city and telling its stories that I have been in tears off and on all morning. So we’re going to take the example of their tenacity and talent, and we’re going to continue to cover the Metro, eagerly anticipating the day they can come back to write those stories, too.

We published a newspaper today, and it’s a good one. We won’t have a print edition next week, but we’ll be online every day, and hopefully we will be back on newsstands — and in thriving bars, coffee shops and restaurants — soon.

MISSISSIPPI: Jackson Free Press. Seeking donations.

The JFP needs your help during this emergency. With events delayed, restaurants closing and concerts canceled, the JFP’s advertising revenue is taking a huge hit. Please help support our reporting and our staff by becoming a JFP VIP today.

TENNESSEE: The Memphis Flyer. Asking for donations.

Our local, independent company is sustained to a great degree by advertising dollars from other local businesses — the sorts of businesses being affected acutely by the changes in our shared lifestyle. The entertainment and dining industries are experiencing radical changes already — and they happen to be our core advertisers…

In this moment, we could use your help. We know many of you are worried about your own finances, and we get it. But if you can spare a one-time contribution of $5, $10, or $20, we would be grateful. Think of it as an investment in our shared future. (If you are in a position to do so, we will cheerfully accept larger sums! But no pressure.)

WISCONSIN: Isthmus, Madison. Suspending publication, figuring out its “next life.”

Over the past few weeks we have been trying to cover the turmoil and grief that COVID-19 has caused our Madison community. Today, we unfortunately need to share our own story. We have decided that if there is any chance of seeing life on the other side of this storm, Isthmus must go dark for an undetermined amount of time.

We have spent countless hours trying to figure a way through this. We have looked at every creative thing we could do and talked to as many trusted advisors as possible. But in the end, we can’t find a way. Isthmus financially depends on people coming together for concerts, food, drink, lectures, movies and more. And when it all goes away at once, we are left without options.

Isthmus has deep roots in this community and loyal readers and advertisers whom we cherish. We will miss being a part of your life during this difficult time.

We are going to take this time to try to figure out what is next and what Isthmus might look like in the next life. Until we meet again.

WISCONSIN: Shepherd Express, Milwaukee. Suspending print publication. Editor/publisher Louis Fortis:

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis is having a real impact on our newspaper. We are not alone in this. Most of the weekly alternative newspapers across the country like the Shepherd have temporarily shifted from both a printed newspaper and a news website to just focusing on the website. The Shepherd has tried to continue to do both, but that is proving too difficult as many places, including venues where you pick up your Shepherd each week, have temporarily closed their doors…

As a result, for the next several weeks, the Shepherd Express will shift its focus to our website and temporarily suspend our print edition. This is the first time the Shepherd newspaper has temporarily suspended publication in its 38 year history.

ILLINOIS: Chicago Reader. Asking for donations. Leor Galil:

Our revenue has taken a dive since most businesses that run ads with us have temporarily closed, and even though we’re transitioning to a new nonprofit model, we still rely on advertising to support our full-time, part-time, and freelance staff. And, right now, we’re in a hard spot…

Again, we’re in a financial pickle because of COVID-19, and one of the ways you can help us is by becoming a Reader member (I’m working on a monthly playlist series for our members, if that helps encourage you). Or give a one-time donation. Every dollar helps ensure that our staff can continue to work on the quality Reader stories that you look forward to reading in print — or, during times of social isolation, PDF form (it’s pretty fun to go through the PDFs of old issues, regardless of what’s happening in the world). I’ve got faith we can continue to run through this uncertain time, because we’re fortunate enough to have you as a reader.

TENNESSEE: The Pulse, Chattanooga. Ending print publication. Managing editor Gary Poole:

It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing that we will be suspending publication of The Pulse after this week’s issue. Last Wednesday, after talking with our senior management team and ownership, there was a collective decision this was the best move for the company…

Given the current situation in the nation and the immediate losses to the entertainment and dining industries, which are a key element of The Pulse, we have decided to cease the printed publication…

So what does this mean for the future? We are exploring ways to keep elements of The Pulse going, either online or with features on the radio stations we share a building with and their websites. We are also considering station apps or podcasts…We are not going away so much as we are evolving to embrace a new reality.

OHIO: CityBeat, Cincinnati. Furloughed seven staffers, “significant pay cuts,” asking for donations. Maija Zummo:

We are devastated to tell you CityBeat had to furlough seven staffers today. That’s across all departments — sales, circulation, production and editorial. And it sucks. It really, really sucks. We are all moving forward with the hope that these changes are temporary, and that as soon as the storm has passed, we will be able to bring back these integral and beloved staffers. But right now, we don’t have a timeline for that or even an example of similar events to look to for guidance…

The reality is CityBeat is and always has been a free publication, both in print and online — there’s no subscription fee and no paywall, which means our revenue relies 100 percent on Cincinnatians being able to gather at concerts, theaters, restaurants, bars, museums, festivals and even our own events. As advertisers have had to make tough decisions about their budgets to weather the quarantine, we just don’t have the ability to move CityBeat forward with our full staff. Those who have remained onboard have all taken significant pay cuts and will be acting in multiple roles.

MICHIGAN: City Pulse, Lansing. Seeking donations. Editor and publisher Berl Schwartz:

Our hope is to keep publishing in print weekly, but that will depend to a large extent on whether our drivers stay healthy and willing to deliver. Meanwhile, we have greatly reduced circulation because of the many closures. But look for us in supermarkets except for Kroger, which has banned City Pulse, and the Meijer store in Bath Township, which has never allowed us to circulate there…

How long we can keep that up will depend on our staff’s health but also our revenue resources. Advertising is virtually our only source, and revenue is down substantially this week and will certainly decline even more in the next few weeks. (We donated the space on P. 2 to the Ingham County Health Department.)

Therefore, any contributions to the City Pulse Fund, which are tax-deductible, would be appreciated more than ever.

MICHIGAN: Metro Times, Detroit. Laid off 8 staffers, asking for donations.

“This is absolutely fucking horrible — the worst-case scenario,” Metro Times publisher Chris Keating said. “Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate this, and we are heartbroken to have to let go of these hardworking and talented people. My hope is that in the very near future, we can go back to business as usual.”

NORTH CAROLINA: Mountain Xpress, Asheville. Laid off 7 staffers, asking for donations.

Today Mountain Xpress said goodbye, for now, to seven members of our team. The job cuts were spread throughout the company and affected our advertising, design, IT and editorial departments. We know that these losses are not unique to Xpress, and that similar pains are being shared throughout our community — but we’re terribly sad to lose our smart, creative coworkers and their contributions…

We hope that our cost-saving measures, which are accompanied by cuts to the pay and hours of our remaining staff, will give us the best chance of continuing to serve Western North Carolina with news, information and inspiration.

The community’s recent response to our request for support at this unprecedented time has been amazing and reaffirming — and bolsters our ability to continue our work. The number of people who have become members has more than tripled, and we’ve received 120 one-time donations…Please keep it coming, and we’ll continue to dig deep, make hard choices and remain focused on our mission of building a better community.

FLORIDA: Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Laid off 7 staffers. (There’s a GoFundMe for those who lost their jobs.) Ray Roa and Colin Wolf:

On Wednesday afternoon, in the wake of the fallout related to the global coronavirus pandemic, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s parent company, Euclid Media Group (EMG), announced layoffs at each of its seven newspapers.

In Tampa, seven staffers across editorial, production, events and sales were let go along with a part-timer in editorial. Remaining employees — including Editor-In-Chief Ray Roa and Digital Editor Colin Wolf — are taking 10% paycuts and taking on additional roles effective immediately…

In April 2018, Euclid Media Group, which is based in Cleveland, Ohio, acquired Creative Loafing Tampa from Tennessee-based company Southcomm. The transaction entailed layoffs of several SouthComm employees, including long-time Editor-in-Chief David Warner.

OHIO: Cleveland Scene. Laid off 5 staffers, asking for donations.

We don’t know what the future holds, but because Cleveland needs as much information as possible during these trying times, we’ll be working our asses off to bring you the stories you need — and some you don’t. To continue serving you, we ask that if you can support us through donation, please do. Every single contribution will go toward keeping your free, independent news source in operation another day.

FLORIDA: Orlando Weekly. Laid off 13 staffers.

Cuts came from every department, including editorial, events, sales, production and circulation. It’s our sincere hope that after weathering this storm, we’ll be able to bring back our incredibly valued staff. At the moment we can’t offer a timeline…Since a majority of our advertisers are ceasing operations as quarantine measures go into effect, we simply don’t have a path forward with our full staff and revenues so severely compromised…

We don’t know what the future holds, but we’ll be working our asses off to bring you the local news, updates and stories you need through these tough weeks and months. If you appreciate what we do for the community, please consider making a donation on our support page.

NORTH CAROLINA: Queen City Nerve, Charlotte. A big cut to print runs, but also home delivery. Publisher Justin LaFrancois:

With all of the new implementations in place, we are cutting our distribution run in half, but wanted to include a way for you to still receive our printed newspaper. We are extending the offer of home delivery for our readers inside of the I-485 loop now through the end of COVID-19 social distancing orders…

We feel that this is the best way to continue to deliver our print journalism to our dedicated readership while limiting unnecessary contact for our drivers. Our drivers will use all necessary sanitary precautions. Each individual paper will be bagged and thrown, old-school style, right at your front door (or as close to it as possible, we aren’t holding tryouts for this)…

Our goal has always and will always be to deliver community-driven journalism on arts, music, food, culture, news and more in the most accessible way possible for our readers. That being said, we are offering extremely affordable advertising rates for the next couple of issues. If your business is offering a new service to adapt with the changing global environment, reach out to us for options.

PENNSYLVANIA: Pittsburgh City Paper. Launching a membership program to make up for lost ad revenue. Editor-in-chief Lisa Cunningham:

In addition to all of us at City Paper feeling the weight of losing out on all of the things we love to see and do in our communities ourselves, I’m gonna be totally honest: City Paper is in trouble. Times were tough for media even before this hit, and now? Let’s just say I recently got my medical marijuana card, and I’m heading to one of our city’s best dispensaries first thing tomorrow morning.

We are launching a membership campaign today in order to help fight some of these losses, with the hope that readers who depend on our daily coverage of local news, arts, music, food, and entertainment recognize the importance in the work we do to keep the city informed and want us to continue.

Altweeklies across the United States are shuttering their print productions. We’re going to keep ours going as long as we’re able. Some have laid off a large part of their staff. We really hope it doesn’t come to that here. We are not a large company. At the beginning of this year, we moved into a new office at half the size of the old one we worked out of for 20 years in order to condense and save money. City Paper employs a full-time staff of 20 writers, editors, artists, and salespersons, and every single one of us cares deeply about our city…

(This membership campaign is something we were planning to launch later this year, but the current spike in lost ad revenue was too great to hold off any longer.)

SOUTH CAROLINA: Charleston City Paper. Asking for donations. Publisher Andy Brack:

Charleston City Paper will continue to support our community and its needs — because that’s what we do. We’d also like to remind everyone there’s a cost to do this. We’re a local business just like the bars, restaurants and other organizations facing new challenges now…

If you’re a business owner, we can broaden your reach so you can engage with hundreds of thousands of Lowcountry residents through our advertising platforms, particularly digital advertising that’s reaching people now in their homes…You can also support the City Paper directly through a donation of $10, $25 or any amount you can afford. Every little bit helps us do what we do. Support the City Paper now.

In the days ahead, let’s take care of each other. Let’s hope our community experience with shared sacrifice now will pay off with getting us through this crisis more quickly.

NORTH CAROLINA: IndyWeek, Durham. Asking for donations. Editor-in-chief Jeffrey C. Billman:

As a newspaper, [coronavirus closures] presented two dilemmas. Editorially, we didn’t have any events to write about, which meant we couldn’t publish our calendars or culture sections, so we had to scrap our plans and reconfigure this issue on the fly.

More urgently, this week’s issue marks the smallest newspaper the INDY has ever published; if you find a print copy, you’ll see it has very few ads. Our advertising revenue is linked to events that are no longer happening, concerts that are canceled, and bars and restaurants that are closed. We’re facing the prospect of weeks or months deep in the red. We need your help.

Many of you have already joined the INDY Press Club, making monthly and one-time contributions to support local journalism. At the risk of sounding like a televangelist eyeballing a new 72-foot yacht, I need you to dig a bit deeper—a few extra bucks a month, another one-time donation. If you’re not a member — I cannot stress this enough — there is no time like the present.

The response:

NEW YORK: Rochester City Newspaper. Seeking donations. David Andreatta:

Now, though, the coronavirus has us on the ropes. Just as the health crisis has brought economies around the world to their knees, so too has it severely hobbled our work at CITY. In a matter of days, the pathogen has wiped out months of expected revenue from advertising and events tied to what we do best — keeping you informed and our community connected…

Aside from reading and supporting our advertisers, who are struggling right along with us, you can become a CITY Champion with a one-time or recurring donation…

We believe that a community without journalism that aggressively questions authority, fights for its most vulnerable residents, and celebrates what makes it unique, can lose its way. That’s why we’re still fighting the good fight. But every fighter needs a team. We need you.

We had planned to roll out our CITY Champions initiative in the coming weeks. But the pandemic sucker punched us and we had to punch back by accelerating our timeline.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Washington City Paper. Asking for donations.

Across our website and social platforms, we’re seeing massive spikes in traffic and engagement. You need us, and we need you — we really need you. The paper is losing a lot of money from canceled events and lost ad sales. We know we’re in the same financial boat as many other industries right now, but we can’t just shut our doors or stop the presses. We feel a responsibility to the 25 percent of Washingtonians who lack broadband access, and the 17 percent who lack access to a computer. They deserve the same access to information, connection, and distraction as everyone else.

Please help us remain a resource for EVERYONE in our community by becoming a member. Not only does it feel great to support your local paper, but you’ll get some fun City Paper swag, too.

If you’re already a member, thank you so much. All we ask is that you share this with a friend who appreciates our community as much as you do.

MASSACHUSETTS: DigBoston. Suspending print publication, asking for donations.

We pride ourselves on having navigated many storms in the world of independent local media, but this time is different. A significant amount of DigBoston’s revenue — advertising, ticketing, events — is directly tied to people getting together in groups. The situation at hand has eliminated most of this income all at once…

For the first time in our publication’s 21-year history, we are also temporarily halting our print edition until further notice. Between the lack of people in public places and the potential danger of communal newspaper boxes, we sadly see no other option for protecting readers and our distribution team.

NOVA SCOTIA: The Coast, Halifax. Suspending print publication, “laid off the nearly 20 people who produce the weekly paper, leaving only a bare-bones editorial staff to keep reporting for The Coast online.” Co-founders Kyle Shaw and Christine Oreskovich:

Each week’s edition of the newspaper has a variety of news and arts and food stories, beautiful photographs, clever comics and other touches that make a publication complete; underlying it all is the idea that every issue is a handbook for being an engaged citizen, making the most of this city we all love and share. Now the best thing to do for you and your neighbour is to stay at home, suspend activity, and disengage while we wait out this virus…

We know a pandemic can be made worse by panic, so we are committed to providing reliable information at But this issue of the print newspaper is the last one for the foreseeable future. Save it as a collector’s edition, your time capsule of Halifax from before.

Photo of Village Voice and other newspaper boxes in New York City, Nov. 27, 2013, by AP/Mark Lennihan. The Village Voice, America’s first alt-weekly, stopped printing in 2017 and published its last new article in 2018.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email ( or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     March 19, 2020, 12:28 p.m.
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