As Covid-19 ran rampant across the United States in 2020, local newsrooms across the country cut back—even as they covered the biggest story in decades.
“As far as readers, we saw that skyrocket during the pandemic,” Emma Way, editor at Axios Charlotte, told CNBC. “So at the same time that revenue was falling, readers were spiking. It was kind of this dilemma that I’m sure a lot of news organizations faced.”
Reporters were laid off and furloughed. Some who stayed were offered buyouts.
It was a catastrophic and uncertain time for American newsrooms.
During the pandemic, more than 70 local newsrooms closed across the country. This includes newspapers that have served their communities for decades. Often, these papers are shut with little notice.
But the problem existed long before the pandemic.
Since 2004, about 1,800 U.S. newspapers have closed. Newspapers have struggled to make money with the collapse of print advertising as readership moved online. Then, the digital advertising market quickly became dominated by tech companies like Google and Facebook.
Today, some of the largest newspaper groups in the country —such as Tribune, McClatchy and Media News Group — are owned, controlled by or in debt to hedge funds or private equity groups. In fact, hedge funds and other financial firms control half of the daily newspapers in the United States, according to a recent analysis by the Financial Times.
Watch the video above to find out what that means for the newspaper industry, and the steps some newsrooms have taken to survive.