Sara Fischer reports via Axios: The decline of local newspapers has accelerated so quickly in 2023 that analysts now believe the United States will have lost a third of its newspapers in 2005 by the end of next year, rather than 2025 as initially planned. There are about 6,000 newspapers left in America, down from 8,891 in 2005, according to a new report from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “We’re almost at a third loss now and we’ll definitely hit that pace next year,” said report co-authors Penelope Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Medill, and Sarah Stonbely, Medill’s state director. of the local news project. Of the newspapers that still survive, the majority (4,790) publish weekly, not daily.
Over the past two years, newspapers have continued to disappear at an average rate of more than two per week, leaving 204 U.S. counties, or 6.4 percent, without any local news media. About half of all U.S. counties (1,562) now have only one local news source, usually a weekly newspaper. Abernathy and Stonbely estimate that 228 of those 1,562 counties, or about 7 percent of all U.S. counties, are at high risk of losing their last local news outlet.
There is not enough investment in digital information replacement to stop the spread of information deserts in America. The footprint of local alternative media is minimal, and they are mostly clustered around metropolitan areas that already have some local coverage. The report estimates that – for media focused on national and local news – there are about 550 digital-only news sites, 720 ethnic media organizations and 215 public broadcasting stations in the United States, compared to 6,000 newspapers. The authors argue that the dynamic between those who have access to quality local information and those who do not “poses a far-reaching crisis for our democracy, as it simultaneously grapples with political polarization, lack of civic engagement and the proliferation of misinformation and information. online.”