Home>Highlight>Print newspapers in steady decline, report says, as Gannett prepares for layoffs, budget cuts

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Print newspapers in steady decline, report says, as Gannett prepares for layoffs, budget cuts

Medill study shows total number of print journalists down 59% since 2006

By David Wildstein, August 08 2022 12:05 am

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%.

“The largest chains control the fate of many of the nation’s surviving newspapers,” the report stated.  “Their business strategies and decisions continue to shape the local news landscape.”

The Medill report says that 20% of Americans – mostly in “economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities” — live in a news desert with no local news organizations.

“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.

Mergers and acquisitions have left 88% of New Jersey’s dailies in the hands of two national media chains and none of the state’s print daily newspapers are independently or locally owned.

Gannett owns nine daily newspapers in New Jersey, while Advance Publications owns five.  The Press of Atlantic City is owned by Lee Enterprises and The Trentonian by Digital First Media.

Within the last 27 years, New Jersey has dropped from 23 daily newspapers – all with local news bureaus and individual editorial boards – to 17 with staffs that are a fraction of the size of their past and in many cases, without editorial writers commenting on local issues.  Gannett dropped to six printed newspapers per week at most of their newspapers this year.

Last week, Gannett announced layoffs and cutbacks after a disastrous $54 million loss in the second quarter.  They also announced that print circulation revenues are down 11.7% over the last three months, while the number of unstaffed delivery routes have increase 267% since 2020.

“The existential question from this very sobering Gannett earnings report: is this a bellwether for the entire local news industry or is it a company issue?” asked Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and local news chair at the Medill School, in a tweet.

Lee Enterprises, which owns 76 other newspapers nationally besides their Atlantic City newspaper, appears to be in a stronger financial situation than Gannett.  Advance Publications has privately held and does not release their earnings.

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