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Damian Radcliffe, holder of the Chambers Chair in journalism at the University of Oregon, describes how the troubling trends of decline in the newspaper industry have accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. He argues that journalism plays a vital role in a healthy democracy, drawing particular attention to its importance at the local level, where it drives civic engagement and holds government accountable. What will it take to preserve a “free and flourishing press” in the time of Covid-19?

Summary

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, United States newspapers’ newsrooms struggled.

From 2008 to 2018, US newspaper revenues dropped more than 60%, largely due to the migration of advertising to digital platforms and consumers’ changing patterns of media consumption. This loss of revenue led to shrinkage in the industry and a more than 50% reduction in the newspaper workforce.

Of those whose jobs disappeared, some 27,000 were news-related reporters, editors, and still and video photographers. Efforts to shore up revenue loss by finding revenue sources beyond advertising, such as subscriptions, haven’t done much to shore up most newspapers’ financial health.

The Covid-19 pandemic rapidly made a bad newsroom situation worse.

More than 200 print news organizations have had to implement layoffs and other cutbacks, leading to furloughs...

About the Author

Damian Radcliffe is a professor of journalism and an affiliate of the Department for Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Oregon where he also curates the “Demystifying Media” speaker series at the School of Journalism and Communication.


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