Local Newspapers Hit Hard by COVID-19 Economy
Jason Shepard believes that the coronavirus didn’t cause the structural crisis in the business model of local news, but it’s making the situation worse.
“Local newspapers, in particular, are facing dire straits as businesses stop advertising as the economy constricts so suddenly,” said Shepard, professor and chair of communications at Cal State Fullerton. “It’s not like local newspapers had big cash reserves, and now they’ve seen the floor drop out within a few weeks.
“Across the country, from the biggest newspaper companies to privately owned newsweeklies, journalists are facing furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs,” he explained. “I fear we are going to see things get worse for the news business in the coming weeks and months. It’s heartbreaking to watch local news struggle for financial viability at a time when people are clamoring for fact-based news about life and death in their communities.”
The media law expert remains optimistic about the future of journalism, however.
“What brings me hope is seeing the high quality of journalism our students are producing right now … We see that with our student journalists covering the coronavirus. Our broadcast capstone course is producing excellent OC News programs with students broadcasting from their homes, and the Daily Titan is seeing unprecedented web traffic each day. Titan journalists are doing what professional journalists are doing every day – adapting to a changing world and telling the stories of the day.”