(ETX Daily Up) – Millions of Americans today live in areas where there is only one local newspaper…if any. They will probably be even more numerous in the next few years. The disappearance of the local press is only getting worse in the United States, according to a recent study by Northwestern University.
In 2004, American writer Philip Meyer made a big impact when he claimed in his book “The Vanishing Newspaper” that the last newspaper in print would appear in April 2043. The latest report from Northwestern University’s Medill School on the decline of the local American press suggests that this prediction is coming true faster than expected. According to the study, the United States loses an average of two newspapers each week. In total, 2,500 press titles have disappeared since 2005.
The pandemic has only accentuated the disappearance of local and regional media. More than 360 American newspapers ceased publication between the end of 2019 and last May. The vast majority were weeklies, catering to communities ranging in size from a few hundred to tens of thousands.
Seventy million Americans thus find themselves without a “local duck”. Real media deserts appear in the country, whether in rural areas or in distant suburbs. This phenomenon contributes to the polarization of American society. “The disappearance of local journalism contributes to the pernicious spread of disinformation, the polarization of political life, the erosion of trust in the media and the appearance of a yawning digital and economic divide between citizens” , Penelope Abernathy, author of the report and associate professor at the Medill School.
According to the report, this decline of the local press is explained by the collapse of advertising revenues and competition from social networks. Upheavals which caused a wave of concentration of regional titles and the elimination of many journalistic posts. “Since 2005, when newspaper revenues reached $50 billion, total editorial employment has fallen by 70%, while revenues have risen to $20 billion,” the study said.
This situation particularly worries Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times. “The most dramatic crisis for American journalism is the death of local newspapers,” he lamented in 2019, during the world congress of the International News Media Association. “Most of the American regional newspapers will die in the next five years, except those which will have been acquired by a local billionaire”. Enough to give reason to the prophecy of Philip Meyer.