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The California Journalism Preservation Act would do more harm than good. Here’s how the state might better help news
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June 29, 2022, 2:12 p.m.

The U.S. has lost a quarter of its newspapers since 2005 and is losing two a week (almost all weekly papers) on average, according to a new report from Northwestern University’s Medill School. In all, 2,500 American papers have disappeared since 2005.

Penny Abernathy, the author of the report and a Medill School visiting professor, writes:

Even though the pandemic was not the catastrophic “extinction-level event” some feared, the country lost more than 360 newspapers between the waning pre-pandemic months of late 2019 and the end of May 2022. All but 24 of those papers were weeklies, serving communities ranging in size from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. Most communities that lose a newspaper do not get a digital or print replacement. The country has 6,377 surviving papers: 1,230 dailies and 5,147 weeklies.

Additionally, dailies “are becoming more like weeklies,” Abernathy writes, even if they’re still called dailies for the purpose of this report:

The daily newspaper — printed and delivered seven days a week — has already disappeared in many markets. Forty of the largest 100 papers in the country now deliver a print edition six or fewer times a week; 11 publish a print edition only one or two or times a week and e-editions on the other days.

The report counts 545 digital-only state and local news sites in existence in 2022, a figure that includes “more than 170 local business and special interest sites, community newsletters, and a growing number of ‘networked’ local outlets, some of which span multiple states.”1

Digital-only news sites remain “predominantly a big-city phenomenon,” Abernathy writes. Meanwhile, most communities that have lost local papers and don’t have a digital site to read in their place “are poorer, older and lack affordable and reliable high-speed digital service.”

You can read the full report here.

  1. Some things to note about that figure: It excludes large national sites like ProPublica and the education-focused Chalkbeat, and it was reached by “merging lists published online by the Local Independent Online News Organization and the Institute for Nonprofit News.” The only community newsletters included were those with membership in either LION or INN. ↩︎
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