Even by the standards of the news business, whose fortunes have declined in the digital age, the past few weeks have been particularly grim for American journalism.
Major newspapers like The Washington Post are laying off reporters and editors, and on Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times laid off more than 20 percent of its newsroom. Cable news ratings have declined amid an uncompetitive presidential primary contest. Iconic titles like Sports Illustrated, already a shadow of their former self, have been destroyed overnight.
As Americans prepare for an election year that will feature debates over disinformation warfare, AI-generated agitprop, and the future of democracy, the mainstream news industry—once the de facto watchdog and facilitator of public discourse—is struggling to stay afloat. Used to be.
This pain is especially evident at the community level. According to this, an average of five local newspapers are closing every two weeks. Northwestern University’s Middle School, more than half of all American counties are now so-called news deserts for those with limited access to news about their hometowns. Of the 1,100 public radio stations and affiliates, only one in five is producing local journalism.
“At a time when America certainly needs solid news coverage more than ever, it is deeply troubling to see economic forces arrayed against traditional news sources in such a powerful way,” he said. Andrew HaywardFormer president of CBS News who works with a group of MIT researchers studying the future of news and information.
“It’s not just disturbing,” he said. “it’s dangerous.”
The decline has continued for years, but a traumatic confluence of challenges has resulted in the current genocide.
Americans are suffering from news fatigue, filled with major stories like the upcoming election and the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Those who follow news are increasingly turning to social media and anti-establishment sites that exist outside of legacy organizations.
Companies are spending a greater share of their advertising 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, loses users and relevance after its chaotic acquisition by Elon Musk, while Google and Meta fired key news staffers and the head of Instagram’s Threads app said it would no longer focus on news.
Problems at the corporate level have also had an impact.
The rise of streaming and decline in movie viewing have led to a tightening of the reins at the parent companies of many news outlets. Disney, which owns ABC News, shed thousands of jobs last year. With NBCUniversal acquiring its once-formidable cable-TV division, NBC News, the audience is declining. fired from job Several dozen employees this month. CNN, owned by debt-laden Warner Bros. Discovery, went through a period 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 start-ups that largely focus on a single industry, like tech. Information for and Ancler for The Hollywood.
Still, the onslaught of painful headlines is an ominous sign for the broader news industry’s efforts to build sustainable business models.
The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times each appeared poised for a comeback after the newspaper was bought by a tech-savvy billionaire, with the industry hoping the financial benefactor could provide a lifeline as print revenues slumped. Both papers competed for appointments and received Pulitzer Prizes.
But last year both suffered losses of millions of dollars. This month, Kevin Merida, the widely respected editor of the Los Angeles Times, resigned after clashing with the newspaper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Then there were mass layoffs.
Mary Louise Kelly, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” said, “If you care about journalism — local news, national news, international news — every warning light should be flashing red.” written on x After word of those layoffs spread.
Post is cutting costs Under its billionaire owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The newspaper grew in popularity during the Trump administration but failed to increase its number of subscribers. Shortly before the New Year, The Post announced that 240 journalists had accepted the buyout.
The Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s largest newspaper, also faces an uncertain future. It was sold this month to David D. Smith, a businessman who runs the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. Many journalists at The Sun are worried that Mr Smith will impose his political interests on the newspaper he recently admitted he has barely read over the past 40 years.
The magazine world has also not remained untouched by this. Last week, Sports Illustrated, once a giant of sports journalism whose covers were a coveted award for the world’s greatest athletes, said it was laying off its entire staff, and its future is in doubt as its owners sell off the assets. Are considering giving license. New investors. A few days ago, Conde Nast folded Pitchfork, once the kingmaker among music’s smart set, into GQ magazine and fired the staff, including the editor in chief.
On Tuesday, unionized workers at Condé Nast organized a walkout and protest at its World Trade Center headquarters. Time magazine, owned by billionaire Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, also began laying off employees this week.
The recent bad news is, in some ways, a continuation of last year. In 2023, business Insider, the Los Angeles Times and NPR cut at least 10 percent of their staffs; BuzzFeed’s news division was shut down; news corporation Cut 1,250 people; National Geographic laid off its remaining staff writers; went via vox media Two rounds of layoffs; Vice Media filed for bankruptcy; Popular Science shuts down its online magazine; and ESPN, Conde Nast and yahoo news Cut all jobs.
Media entrepreneur and analyst Ken Doctor said, “A new reality has emerged between legacy media, between print giants owned by billionaires, and a few high-profile national digital players, who won the kind of notice a decade ago.”
Now, the news industry is looking forward to new obstacles posed by the technology of artificial intelligence. Some outlets have expressed concerns that AI algorithms, which generate instant answers to readers’ questions, could replace online news sites as sources for current events.
The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, arguing that millions of articles published by the Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete as information providers. Some publishers, such as Axel Springer, made deals with OpenAI for annual payments in exchange for use of their digital archives.
If there’s a bright spot, it might be local television news.
Although local TV news stations are enduring their own problems – heavy workloads for reporters, even as salaries have stagnated – many are better off than local newspapers, according to CBS News. said Mr. Hayward, the former chairman, who now works as a consultant for several people. Local news outlets.
“There’s a lot going on in local TV news for this,” he said. “Virtually every market of any size has three to four competing newsrooms, which is in stark contrast to the local newspaper, where one is lucky to be in a market. And if they do, it’s usually a shadow of its former self.
A Gallup and Knight Foundation survey in 2023 found that Americans trusted local news sources far more than national media organizations. And only 19 percent of Americans in the Gallup poll rated their trust in journalists as “high” or “very high.” released this weekA nine-point decrease from four years ago.
“They can’t be promoted as fake news,” Mr. Hayward said of local outlets. “If there’s a traffic light broken at Elm and Maple, people know it, and there are no alternative facts. “Americans are having trouble finding common ground, but in the local market, they have it.”