News

Victor Pickard’s latest book about journalism and democracy concludes that dark political moments are precisely when we should be envisioning a different future. Of course, the moment he was referring to—before the book went on sale in December—looks downright sunny compared to what’s happened since.

For years, Penny Muse Abernathy—the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism—has been studying the disintegration of journalism’s traditional business model, mapping losses of physical newsrooms across the United States.

Through war, depression and every kind of turmoil the country endured over the past 100 years, the Morning Call’s newsroom was on the same downtown corner in Allentown, Pa. Until now.

Hit this year by a pandemic and an economic downturn, Tribune Publishing informed journalists at the Morning Call and four of its other newspapers last Wednesday that their newsrooms would permanently close.

What would my town be without a newspaper? If you haven’t asked yourself that question, perhaps it is time to consider just what the newspaper means to this community.

Last week, in a Q&A about covering losses in the journalism industry, Poynter reporter Kristen Hare observed that the newsroom mergers and consolidations that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic often use terminology to obscure the full breadth of the loss. “If you lose a newsroom, and everybody in that newsroom has lost their jobs, and that community no longer has a newsroom, it’s closed,” Hare said. “It’s not a ‘merger.’ It’s a loss for the community.” 

Work from home has been the norm for five months now. Some journalists who were previously accustomed to commuting to the office love this new rhythm. Others deeply miss the office and can't wait to come back.

The Journal Star of Peoria, Illinois, has seen its newsroom staff dwindle from 32 people just two years ago to 11 journalists, mostly through layoffs by GateHouse and the current owner, Gannett.

“The constricted staff means much less of the newspapering that readers want, such as in-depth and investigative pieces,” said Phil Luciano, a reporter and columnist at the Journal Star since 1988 who is the newsroom’s longtime Guild unit chairman. 

Despite the limitations, the staff is “rich with experience and thus excels, especially when there is big, breaking news,” Luciano said.