The Press of Atlantic City is trying something new: an expanded community newspaper that will be mailed to every household in Linwood, Northfield and Somers Point.
“It will be a true hyperlocal publication, focused on government and business and what’s happening in local schools,” said Buzz Keough, the Press’ executive editor, in a candid post on his newspaper’s website.
But in order to focus on those three municipalities, they are shuttering their other six weekly newspapers in Atlantic and Cape May counties. That means an end to The Current and Gazette publications that reach Absecon, Brigantine, Cape May, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway, Hamilton Township, Longport, Margate, Middle, Ocean City, Port Republic, Upper and Wildwood.
“We don’t make this decision lightly,” Keough said. “But in recent years, the weeklies have ceased being an independent news operation and instead have come to rely largely on press releases, submitted content and republished daily stories that originally appeared in The Press of Atlantic City.”
Keough acknowledged that “advertising support for free weeklies has waned, as has their profitability.”
“The signs have been clear for some time that something new is needed,” he said.
The number of print newspapers in the United States has dropped by 28% since 2005 and the number of print journalists is down by 59% since 2006, according to a State of Local News report from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University released last month.
Annual newspapers revenues are down from $50 billion in 2006 to $21 billion, a 58% drop.
Since 2019, 360 print newspapers have shut down – about two every week. Staff photographers are down about 80%
“This is a crisis for our democracy and our society, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Medill and the principal author of the report.
The new project will be under the direction of Delaney Crawford, the Press’ community news editor and recent Hood College graduate. Keough said she has been attending local government meetings since July.
“By refocusing our attention on a more hyper-local newspaper, one with its own staff and resources, we are building the next generation of sustainable local news,” stated Keough. “That next-gen newspaper will earn community support, become a ‘must read’ publication and serve as a model that can be repeated again and again in other communities.”
Keough’s move appears to contrast business decisions made by Gannett, the largest chain of newspapers in the U.S., including nine New Jersey-based dailies.
Gannett owns 31 weekly newspapers across the state, from Westwood to Hammonton, most of which have been gutted and enfeebled in recent years.
Gannett recently announced a $54 million loss in the second quarter of 2022 and has initiated another round of cost-cutting measures, including layoffs nationally and in New Jersey.
The Press of Atlantic City was owned by Berkshire Hathaway until 2020, when another newspaper chain, Lee Enterprises, purchased them. Lee appears to be on a stronger financial footing than Gannett.