Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Higher ed and public radio are enmeshed. So what happens when the culture wars come?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 15, 2020, 2:59 p.m.
LINK: www.nytimes.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   April 15, 2020

Having seen the initial damage done to alt-weeklies and city magazines, the coronavirus’ visible impact on the news business has shifted squarely to daily newspapers. Anecdotal whispers of advertising declines of 30, 40, even 50 percent are circulating. Tuesday afternoon, via the Los Angeles Times, we got a scary look at what hath COVID-19 wrought.

“Due to the unexpected effects of Covid-19, our advertising revenue has nearly been eliminated,” said a memo to the staff on Tuesday from Chris Argentieri, the president of California Times, the publishing company that includes The Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Nearly been eliminated.” That’s quite a phrase — one that makes talk of this as an extinction-level event for much of local news seem measured.

A different memo was slightly more calming: “The Times has lost more than one-third of its advertising revenue and expects to lose more than half of its advertising revenue in the coming months.”

It’s those coming months that are the important variable here — how long local businesses are shut down will determine how long advertising in local media is depressed. As we’ve heard from publishers throughout the last month-plus of anxiety: If this is a few weeks, we can make it. If this is still happening come summer, we’re done.

The L.A. Times memos did not announce any major impacts to the newsroom beyond pay cuts for some editors and executives. The biggest cuts were on the business side, where ad sales people find themselves unable to sell ads. But remember, the L.A. Times newsroom unionized last year — meaning that any cuts there must be (or at least should be) discussed with guild leadership. That could well mean newsroom cuts are just delayed, not avoided.

For the record, L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is worth $6.9 billion. Any cuts to the L.A. Times newsroom will be a choice, not a necessity.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 50,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Higher ed and public radio are enmeshed. So what happens when the culture wars come?
With higher education at the crossroads of the culture war, public media is vulnerable to growing political interference over its operations.
The view from here: Rethinking what local news can and should be
“Your newsroom should match the community. It’s the easiest thing to say, it’s very difficult to do.”
These competitors joined forces to allow readers to use a single login across their news sites
OneLog brings together some of the largest and most trusted Swiss media companies. Their single sign-on solution will reach 2 million active accounts in 2022 — representing one in four inhabitants in the country.