A Quarter of American Newspapers Closed in the Past 15 Years

More and more people are living in news deserts

A local newspaper
A study found almost one in four newspapers had closed since 2004.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the media landscape over the past decade or so already knows that things are dire, but a new study has some insight into just how bad the industry has been: nearly a quarter of American newspapers have shut down in the past 15 years.

That disheartening news is just one of many findings in a new 124-page report called “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?” The report was led by Penelope Muse Abernathy at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study also found that since the fall of 2018, the number of communities that had their own newspapers in 2004 and now have no original reporting whatsoever (in print or digitally) has increased from 1,300 to 1,800.

“The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us, yet again, of the vital importance of local news,” the report reads. “Yet, at this very moment, local news organizations, large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, are confronting a dire economic threat to their existence.”

“Will our actions — or inactions — lead to an ‘extinction-level event’ of local newspapers and other struggling news outlets, as predicted by some in the profession?” it asks. “Or will they lead to a reset: an acknowledgment of what is at stake if we lose local news, as well as a recommitment to the civic mission of journalism and a determination to support its renewal?”

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