Newspapers’ Demise is Bad News

Newspapers’ Demise is Bad News

Since the news appeared during the recent holiday season, many people may have missed the story about the demise of U.S. newspapers.

Newspapers’ Demise is Bad News blog post by Ken Walker Writer. Pictured a declining graphic over a stack of old newspapers.A report in Axios said the decline accelerated so rapidly last year that by the end of 2024 the nation will have lost a third of the newspapers it had in 2005. Originally, the forecast predicted that wouldn’t happen until late 2025.

The news website cited a report from Northwestern University’s journalism school that said there are roughly 6,000 newspapers left in America, down from nearly 8,900 in 2005.

Roughly half of all counties in the nation are served by only one local news source, usually a weekly newspaper. With papers vanishing at an average of more than two per week the past two years, more than 200 counties have no local news outlet.

“Most communities that lose a local newspaper in America usually do not get a replacement, even online,” Axios reported.

A Valuable Role

This development is very bad news indeed. That’s because of the valuable role local papers play in the life of a community.

The old cliché about a “newspaper of record” comes from the basic information so many print. Those mundane details of life—like obituaries, legal notices, and youth sports leagues—impact countless numbers of average people on the street.

It’s the kind of information that rarely gets attention online, nor is it necessarily all that profitable. Yet it matters.

Then there’s the check-and-balance role of newspapers, one more so than radio or television provide.

Newspaper reporters are the pesky folks sorting out facts from rumors, asking political leaders the embarrassing questions they prefer to avoid, and airing all sides of an issue. Nothing could be more vital in a major election year.

Industry Participant

Pictured: A person reading the sports section of a newspaper.Granted, I come at this from a slanted point of view. I had my first byline at 16, covering high school football on the weekends for my hometown newspaper.

In college, I discovered that while sports may make for a great hobby, I preferred to make my living in more general news coverage and keep sports as a hobby.

After graduating, I wound up covering the courthouse beat for a daily newspaper for about 15 months. I will never forget the first murder trial I witnessed, which is when I discovered that episodes of Perry Mason bore no resemblance to real life.

I left the world of newspapering after an upheaval sparked by a power struggle at a weekly newspaper in Denver convinced me there had to be a better way to make a living.

Yet, years later while freelancing, I returned to the industry by writing stories for a weekly statewide newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. Ironically, it no longer exists.

Learning to Write

In the past, if a young person asked me how they could learn to write, I would tell them to go to work for a newspaper. They would learn to meet deadlines (a practice sorely needed in today’s world), write clear and concise copy, and not take themselves too seriously.

There will be alternatives surfacing, like the aforementioned Axios, a news site that launched in 2017. Yet I fear not enough of these operations will focus a spotlight on local communities and serve to keep elected officials, businesses, and leaders in other arenas honest.

People can scream about “fake news” until they’re blue in the face. But nothing can take the place of reporters who are there to simply relate the news, be it good, bad or indifferent. Sometimes, I wonder if the public appreciates what a profound loss that represents.

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