‘Supply lines of local news are being cut’
Endless newspaper layoffs have cost readers “tens of thousands of years of community knowledge,” says media sage Ken Doctor in an important new book.
As if the loss of community wisdom and lore were not bad enough, it is unclear where local news will come from in the future, warns Doctor in “Newsonomics,” which is being published next week and can be ordered here.
“For truly local news, our supply lines are being cut,” writes Doctor, a former senior editor at Knight Ridder who is one of the top thinkers (and worriers) about the ever-changing media landscape. He writes the popular Content Bridges blog.
“Profound changes” in publishing economics in the Internet age “have forced a basic redefinition of local news,” says Doctor, noting that the number of journalists in the nation’s newsrooms has fallen by at least 12,900 individuals, or a depressing 22%, since 2001.
Most of the jobless journalists, he adds, were devoted to reporting on local news. And many represented decades of irreplaceable experience.
“Disproportionately, the older, more experienced (and most highly paid) staff is targeted for buyouts and layoffs,” he writes. As a result of the brain drain, he adds, “we can estimate that readers have lost tens of thousands of years of community knowledge.”
But it is not clear whether – or what – will compensate for this loss.
“The biggest local news companies – the newspapers – are downsizing rapidly, and, I believe, permanently,” says Doctor. “The smaller local companies – the start-ups – are finding innovative ways to get bigger. The big question: Will these two trend lines meet, and, if, so, where?”