Given the pervasive distrust of media, particularly national mainstream media, news that the Wuhan coronavirus crisis is hitting news media hard may not garner a lot of sympanthy. But the hardest hit is at the local level, not the names you know and love/hate.

Buzzfeed says The Coronavirus Is A Media Extinction Event:

As the reporters, photographers, editors, and designers at the Seattle Times report on a community stricken with the coronavirus, their paper is also battling another serious threat. In just a few weeks, its local advertising business has all but disappeared….

“Virtually all entertainment advertising is gone, restaurants gone. Automobile advertising is starting to get impacted,” Alan Fisco, the president and CFO of the paper, told BuzzFeed News….

Alternative weeklies in the US and Canada have laid off staff and curtailed print editions. In the UK, the Time Out and Stylist magazines announced a temporary halt to print editions. So did a group of 19 local papers in Michigan, and one in Rhode Island. In New Orleans, the merged Times-Picayune and Advocate newspapers furloughed a 10th of their staff and have the rest working four day weeks. A newspaper in Vermont laid off 20 of its 42 staffers, and papers in West VirginiaCalifornia, and Florida also had layoffs. Even the New York Times warned in early March that its ad revenue would take a hit. On Monday, Digiday reported that 88% of legacy and digital publishers surveyed expect to miss their business targets this year.

Huffpo tells a similar story, The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Hammering Local Newspapers about the devastation at the local level, but notes it’s hitting national outlets as well:

It has hit the industry from top to bottom: The New York Times Co., citing  “‘uncertainty and anxiety’ caused by the coronavirus,” said it expected online ad revenue to fall by 10% in the first quarter. But the losses are particularly devastating for alt-weeklies, which heavily rely on advertising from local businesses, many of which are now temporarily closed.

Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts have hit Washingtonian Magazine, the Military Times, and, across the border, one of Canada’s few remaining independent alt-weeklies. The Stranger, a Seattle-based newspaper, said this week that it would stop printing and laid off 18 staffers. In St. Louis, the Riverfront Times laid off most of its staff and temporarily suspended its print edition. The Portland Mercury joined them, laying off 10 staffers this week, while the Sacramento News & Review told readers it needed contributions to keep printing after advertising revenues dropped 50% in less than a week. The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest paper, has told staff to keep down expenses and avoid working overtime. The Reno News & Review, which shares a publisher with the Sacramento paper, announced that it will suspend operations indefinitely and lay off its entire staff after Thursday’s issue publishes.

Many of the papers said the changes were temporary. But there were also dire warnings about the future.

“It could be the end,” Jeff vonKaenel, the publisher of the News & Review papers in Sacramento, Reno and Chico, California, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

CNN, as CNN does best, wraps itself in self-importance, Hundreds of journalists are being laid off, right when the public needs them the most:

CNN Business reported on Sunday that at least 100 people in local newsrooms in the US lost their jobs in March. By Friday, that number shot up to at least 300 people as the impact of coronavirus continues to roil newspapers and digital media companies.

BuzzFeed avoided layoffs through salary reductions, but that strategy isn’t being implemented everywhere. Future PLC, which owns Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, Live Science and other publications, is planning to lay off at least nine employees out of 59 in the union, according to a statement from its union on Tuesday….

The sad twist about these layoffs and restructuring is that they come just as the public is hungry for information about the pandemic, but there are now fewer journalists to provide vital information about it. Traffic is up for many sites and TV ratings have increased as people are stuck at home watching the news.

Don’t cheer this pain. It will empower the largest corporate behemoths, the heart of the mainstream media, who are the most likely to survive and to take even more market share. The same goes for those with billionaire bankrollers, like the far-left The Intercept.

At Legal InsurrectionFoundation and website, we’re going to have to navigate this environment a little differently. We already run such a lean shop on such a frugal budget. We never lived big.

We are at risk, as are all non-profits, of a decline in donations as a result of the stock market decline and readers worried about or losing their jobs. It’s a little too early to tell how we will be impacted, but we did postpone what would have been a First Anniversary Fundraiser early this month as the timing coincided with the stock market crash. At some point when things calm down, we’ll reach out to readers, who have come through for us bigly in the past.

While our travel plans are on hold, we’re continuing to research behind the scenes, and I’m hopeful we’ll continue to push the envelope as we also cover the crazy news scene. We’re also looking into ways to bring us together with readers “virtually.”

But for now, we’re just doing what we do, watching the media carnage from afar. But we take no joy in the misfortunes of others, whether ‘journalists’ or actual working folk, losing their jobs.

[Featured Image: Legal Insurrection reader reception, February 2020, Los Angeles]

 

 
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