The news about the news business is getting grimmer

Even by the standards of a news business whose fortunes have plummeted in the digital age, the last few weeks have been especially grim for American journalism.

Prominent newspapers like The Washington Post are shedding reporters and editors, and on Jan 23, the Los Angeles Times laid off more than 20 per cent of its newsroom. Cable news ratings have fallen amid an uncompetitive presidential primary contest. Esteemed titles like Sports Illustrated, already a shadow of their former selves, have been gutted overnight.

As Americans prepare for an election year that will feature disinformation wars, artificial intelligence-generated agitprop and a debate over the future of democracy, the mainstream news industry – once the de facto watchdog and facilitator of public discourse – is struggling to stay afloat.

The pain is particularly pronounced at the community level. An average of five local newspapers are closing every two weeks, according to Northwestern University’s Medill School, with more than half of all American counties now so-called news deserts with limited access to news about their hometowns. Of 1,100 public radio stations and affiliates, only about 1 in 5 is producing local journalism.

“At a time when America arguably needs more solid news coverage than ever, it is very disturbing to see economic forces arrange so powerfully against traditional news sources,” said Mr Andrew Heyward, a former CBS News president who works with a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers studying the future of news and information.

“It’s not just disturbing,” he added. “It’s dangerous.”

The decline has gone on for years, but a painful confluence of challenges has resulted in the current carnage.

Americans are suffering from news fatigue, inundated with major stories like the coming election and wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Those who do follow the news have increasingly turned to social media and anti-establishment sites that exist outside legacy organisations.

Companies are spending more of their ad budgets to reach users on big tech platforms like Instagram and Google – which in turn have become less reliable in referring readers to traditional news sources. Twitter, now X, shed users and relevance after its chaotic takeover by entrepreneur Elon Musk, while Google and Meta laid off-key news employees and the head of Instagram’s Threads app said it would not focus on news.

Troubles at the corporate level have also taken a toll.

The rise of streaming and a drop-off in movie going have led to belt-tightening at the parent companies of many news outlets. Disney, which owns ABC News, shed thousands of jobs last year. With NBCUniversal losing viewers from its once-formidable cable-TV division, NBC News laid off several dozen employees this month. CNN, owned by debt-laden Warner Bros Discovery, went through a round of layoffs. Paramount, which owns CBS News, is also planning deep cuts, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Boston Globe have found success by attracting digital subscribers, and there are some green shoots among niche, subscription-based startups that largely focus on a single industry, like The Information for tech and The Ankler for Hollywood.

Still, the onslaught of painful headlines is an ominous sign for the broader news industry’s efforts to forge sustainable business models.

Source link

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *