On Media: Pandemic poses ‘extinction-level’ threat to local journalism

“Every day that I wake up and look at the state of things, we could make the decision to close and I think people would understand it based on the situation,” Deitch told me. “But we don’t. We keep moving forward and doing our jobs and trying to keep people informed.”

The pandemic looks like it will be another defining moment for local journalism not only in Pittsburgh but across the U.S., according to a newly updated report from the University of North Carolina. It shows that losses that were happening before the crisis have only accelerated:

  • At least 30 newspapers closed or merged in April and May, dozens of newspapers moved to online-only and thousands of journalists have been let go;
  • At least 2,100 newspapers have closed since 2005, leaving 1,800 communities without a local news outlet;
  • More than 200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties — including Montour and Union counties in Pennsylvania — have no newspaper or local news source.

“We’re losing news,” author Penny Muse Abernathy told me. “We’re losing the newspapers, the very local newspapers that used to cover the routine school board meetings and find something of interest there, and we’re losing the reporting that was done at the state and regional level that bound us together. … It’s important to think about the loss of news as the loss of journalism.”

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