News in the news industry is getting darker and darker

News in the news industry is getting darker and darker

Even by the standards of a news industry whose fortunes have plummeted in the digital age, the past few weeks have been particularly bleak 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 editorial staff. Cable news ratings have failed amid uncompetitive presidential primaries. Prestigious titles like Sports Illustrated, already a shadow of their former selves, were emptied overnight.

As Americans prepare for an election year marked by disinformation wars, AI-generated agitprop and debate over the future of democracy, the mainstream news industry – once the gatekeeper of de facto and facilitator of public discourse – is struggling to stay afloat.

The pain is particularly pronounced at the community level. On average, five local newspapers close every two weeks, according to Medill School of Northwestern University, with more than half of all U.S. counties now said to be news deserts with limited access to hometown information. Of 1,100 public and affiliated radio stations, only about one in five produce local journalism.

“At a time when America arguably needs more robust media coverage than ever, it is deeply concerning to see economic forces organizing so powerfully against traditional news sources,” he said. declared. Andrew Heywardformer president of CBS News who works with a group of MIT researchers studying the future of news and information.

“It’s not just worrying,” he added. “It’s dangerous.”

The decline has continued for years, but a painful confluence of challenges has culminated in the current carnage.

Americans suffer from information fatigue, inundated with major news stories like the upcoming election and the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Those who follow the news are increasingly turning to social networks and protest sites that exist outside of traditional organizations.

Companies are spending more of their advertising budgets reaching users on big tech platforms like Instagram and Google, which in turn have become less reliable in directing readers to traditional news sources. Twitter, now X, is losing users and relevance after its chaotic takeover by Elon Musk, while Google and Meta laid off key news employees and the head of Instagram’s Threads app said it wouldn’t focus on news .

Problems at the corporate level have also taken a toll.

The rise of streaming and the decline in movie attendance have led the parent companies of many media outlets to tighten their belts. Disney, which owns ABC News, cut thousands of jobs last year. As NBCUniversal loses viewers from its once-formidable cable TV division, NBC News licensed several dozen employees this month. CNN, owned by Warner Bros. Debt-ridden Discovery has suffered a series of layoffs. Paramount, which owns CBS News, is also planning deep cuts, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Boston Globe have found success attracting digital subscribers, and there are a few green shoots among niche subscription-based startups that focus largely on a single industry , like The Information for tech and The Anchor for Hollywood.

Still, the onslaught of painful headlines is a worrying sign for the news industry’s efforts as a whole to forge sustainable business models.

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times appeared poised for a comeback after each newspaper was bought by a tech-savvy billionaire, the kind of financial benefactor the industry hoped could offer a lifeline as revenues from the printing was diminishing. Hiring awards and Pulitzer Prizes followed at both newspapers.

But both lost tens of millions of dollars last year. This month, Kevin Merida, the well-respected editor of the Los Angeles Times, resigned after a conflict with the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Next come the extended layouts.

“If you care about journalism – local news, national news, international news – all the warning lights should be flashing red,” Mary Louise Kelly, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” written on after news of the layoffs spread.

The Postal Service is cutting costs under its billionaire owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The paper gained popularity during the Trump administration, but failed to capitalize on its subscription growth. Shortly before the new year, The Post reported that 240 employees had agreed to a 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 group Sinclair Broadcast. Many Sun journalists fear Mr Smith is imposing his political interests on a newspaper he recently admitted to having barely read in the past 40 years.

The magazine world is not immune. Last week, Sports Illustrated, once a titan of sports journalism whose coverage was a coveted prize for the world’s greatest athletes, said it was laying off much of its staff and its future was uncertain as its owners were considering licensing the property to new investors. Days earlier, Condé Nast had folded Pitchfork, once one of music’s smartest kingmakers, into GQ magazine and laid off employees, including the editor-in-chief.

On Tuesday, unionized Condé Nast workers staged a walkout and protest at the World Trade Center headquarters. Time magazine, owned by billionaire Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, also began laying off workers this week.

The recent bad news is, in some respects, a continuation of that of last year. In 2023, Business Insider, the Los Angeles Times and NPR have cut at least 10 percent of their staff; BuzzFeed’s news division was shut down; News Corp. remove 1,250 people; National Geographic laid off its remaining editors; Vox Media went through two rounds of layoffs; Vice Media filed for bankruptcy; Popular Science closed its online magazine; and ESPN, Condé Nast and Yahoo News all have cut jobs.

“A new reality has emerged among traditional media, both the billionaire-owned print stalwarts and some of the most high-profile national digital players who gained such notoriety a decade ago,” Ken said Doctor, entrepreneur and media analyst.

Today, the information industry is turning its attention to the new obstacles posed by artificial intelligence technology. Some media outlets have expressed concern that AI algorithms, which generate impromptu responses to readers’ questions, could replace online news sites as the go-to sources for news.

The New York Times 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 news providers. Some publishers, such as Axel Springer, have entered into agreements with OpenAI for annual payments in exchange for use of their digital archives.

If there’s a bright spot, it might be the local TV news.

Although local television news stations are suffering their own problems – a heavier workload for journalists, even as salaries have stagnated – many of them remain in better shape than local newspapers, Mr. Heyward said , the former president of CBS News, who now works as a consultant to several local newspapers. local media.

“Local TV news has a lot to offer,” he said. “Virtually every market, regardless of size, has three or four competing newsrooms, which is in stark contrast to the local newspaper, where a market is lucky to have one. And if they do, it’s usually just a shadow of their former selves.

A Gallup and Knight Foundation survey in 2022 found that Americans placed much more trust in local news sources than in national media organizations. And only 19 percent of Americans described their trust in journalists as “high” or “very high” in a Gallup survey. released this weeka drop of nine points compared to four years ago.

“They can’t be demonized as fake news,” Mr. Heyward said of local media. “If there is a broken traffic light at Elm and Maple, people know it and there are no other facts. Americans have a hard time finding common ground, but in a local market, they have it.

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David B.Otero

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