Nov 28, 2023 - News

Rapid decline of American newspapers hits Ohio hard

Local news outlets, by county
Data: Adapted from Medill Local News Initiative; Note: Includes newspapers, public broadcasting outlets, ethnic media outlets and digital sites that cover local news; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

The decline of local newspapers accelerated so rapidly in 2023 that analysts now believe the U.S. will have lost one-third of the newspapers it had as of 2005 by the end of next year — rather than in 2025, as was originally predicted.

Why it matters: Most U.S. communities that lose a local newspaper usually do not get a replacement, even online, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

By the numbers: Roughly 6,000 newspapers are left in the U.S., down from 8,891 in 2005, according to a new report from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

  • Of the papers that survive, most (4,790) publish weekly, not daily.

What's happening: Over the past two years, newspapers vanished at an average rate of more than two per week, leaving 204 U.S. counties, or 6.4%, without any local news outlet.

Zoom in: Ohio was hit particularly hard in 2023. Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper chain, shut down 16 community newspapers in the Columbus area and six in greater Akron.

  • Two counties in the state — Holmes and Warren — now have no local outlets.

Between the lines: The counties at risk of becoming news deserts are located in high poverty areas in the South or the Midwest, often serving significant Black, Hispanic and Native American populations.

  • The counties at risk of becoming news deserts are located in high poverty areas in the South or the Midwest, often ones that serve significant Black, Hispanic and Native American populations.

The intrigue: Hedge funds that bought up big chunks of the newspaper industry in recent decades have pulled back.

  • Those companies bought hundreds of newspapers seeking to squeeze extra profits from them at the margins as they declined.
  • But several industry shifts in the past year, including a dramatic advertising slowdown, have forced the funds to dump papers quicker than they expected.

The big picture: The lack of a market solution to the local news crisis has prompted regulators and philanthropists to scramble for alternatives.

  • Signal Cleveland — the American Journalism Project outlet funded in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation — launched almost exactly one year ago.
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