Faceless in a pandemic era
The jury is still out on what exactly will happen to our communities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
Some communities are already facing the fallout of the coronavirus infiltrating into their normal way of life. Weekly newspapers are shutting down in the face of the pandemic.
Last week two well-respected weekly publications, Woodbury Bulletin and Hastings Star Gazette ceased publication, leaving their communities deserted. Other papers that have recently shut down are Eden Prairie News, the Lakeshore Weekly News, the Lake County News Chronicle in Two Harbors, the Jasper Journal in southwestern Minnesota and the Osakis Review. Last month I told you about six other newspapers in the Fillmore County area that quit publishing. Over the past two months, the state has lost 13 weekly publications.
A national media analyst has predicted that there are 200 to 300 weekly newspapers that will not be around by the end of the year nationally. As many as 500 more newspapers are expected to reduce their publication schedule this year. Austin and Albert Lea are already in that category as they have trimmed back from dailies to two days a week.
It’s not the kind of news I like sharing. For someone like me who is dependent on the success of a newspaper, it’s downright discouraging and alarming.
It has been a long struggle for the newspaper industry. The pandemic is partly to blame, but many newspapers have been struggling for years. Ad revenue for all U.S. newspapers was $48.7 billion in 2000, but by 2017 it had fallen to $16.5 billion, according to the Pew Research Center. Goggle and Facebook are largely responsible for the steep declines with the print industry.
Advertising revenue is the primary source of income for newspapers. It’s not hard to figure out, but with little to no revenue coming in from businesses and organizations, there is no newspaper. And communities and their residents are the big losers when that happens.
People often comment about how they enjoy the stories and photographs we publish every week in our newspaper. What many, especially businesses, don’t realize is that there is a huge expense to providing quality local news coverage without even factoring in the steep printing costs.
On the local level, my staff and I are doing everything in our power to continue providing the kind of local news our readers demand and expect. We take great pride in providing readers with solid news reporting every week.
With what’s happening in our world because of the pandemic, I think newspapers are more relevant than ever before. I hope others will agree with me and find ways to keep newspapers thriving.
We are fortunate to have great supporters who believe in what we’re doing, but there are many others who are less than supportive. I hope those who don’t see the value in supporting the local newspaper take notice before it’s too late.
Losing a newspaper is not a good thing. Newspapers have helped build this country to what it is today. The last thing any community needs is to go without a voice. Sadly, that’s happening at a rapid pace around Minnesota this year.
We all need to go in hot pursuit of not letting our communities become faceless, especially in the pandemic world we’re living in right now.