At a time when most needed, journalism is suffering coronavirus effects
Journalism is, at its foundation, about us, by us and for us.
Journalists are the same as anyone else at the end of the day. Trying to make a living doing what they’re good at.
What may be stranger than the dizzying effect of all the gaslighting from some public officials and the sometimes oddly obsequious way we cling to our political persuasions in this era is that we are living a tragic irony. At a time when we need journalists and local news the most (indeed, viewership and readership are up), news organizations are experiencing precipitous declines in ad revenue with some struggling to stay afloat.
It was recently reported by Poynter that TEGNA, the parent company of Connecticut’s FOX61, has implemented temporary furloughs and pay cuts that affect everyone from reporters and producers to the board of directors. It may only be a matter of time before we see similar measures enacted at other stations.
The irony: while ratings have been high for local TV news, stocks of most of the parent companies of the state’s local news channels have fallen steadily over the past month. Ad revenue has disappeared almost entirely.
Coronavirus-related misfortune has entered the radio world, too. Entercom, which owns four radio stations in the state announced salary reductions, furloughs and layoffs to employees. In the past week, Connecticut has lost familiar radio voices with the layoffs of 93.7 radio host of 21 years Nancy Barrow and radio veteran Dean Richards, who was at 100.5 for 28 years.
Changes have come to many newspapers. The Newtown Bee, established in 1877, discontinued printing because of the new coronavirus. The Hartford Business Journal went all-digital for the time being after a faithful 28 years of delivering a print edition. At last check, the Lakeville Journal was seeing whether or not it could take advantage of stimulus money. The Day of New London recently launched a special site to take in tax-deductible donations. The Hartford Courant sadly cut stalwart freelance columnists like Susan Campbell (now writing for Hearst CT) and Frank Harris III.
Sure, some of these newspaper changes are in the interest of public health during a time in which people are wearing gloves to touch their mail. But make no mistake, local journalism needs you and me to survive, even in healthy, normal times.
So what can we do? Because if your local newspaper fails, who will consistently go to every town meeting to make sure you’re being represented? Who will cover your high school’s sporting events so your kids’ hard work can be widely acknowledged? Who will dig into public records and make FOI requests to ensure your tax money is being spent properly and efficiently? Who will expose the issues, large and small, so that a community can then act and speak with one voice? Who will motivate you to think through a different lens?
Don’t wait for companies like Facebook to support your local news. If you can, go do it now. Subscribe, make a donation, read, encourage your local journalists. And take it easy on them —they’re your neighbors.
Jared Todd lives in Hartford and writes for Connecticut media blog, The Laurel, published by McDowell Communications Group.
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