American journalism needs a bailout | #socialmedia

Rob Gavin grew up on Staten Island in New York City, studied journalism at a public college, then got his dream job in 1997 — as a reporter with his hometown daily newspaper, the Staten Island Advance. In 2000, more magic happened.

Gavin was asked to be the newspaper’s Albany correspondent in the state capitol, covering one of the most important legislatures in the nation for six years. His home was the press room, where a huge tribe of reporters fought over desks, mingled with PR people, and muscled to get access to powerful politicians. 

A horde of reporters and the smell of newsprint filled the room — a journalism mob scene. The AP had four reporters, Gannett three, the NY Daily News two, and many of the state’s dailies sent correspondent to watch their local legislators. It was a glorious time, still, for print media. 

And then that news world crumbled.

By the time Gavin left in 2005 to join the Albany Times Union, “The number of reporters was down drastically.  It really decreased,” Gavin told me. His newspaper sent one more correspondent to cover the capitol, then stopped, as did dozens of others.

As the more efficient internet surveillance environment gobbled up advertisers, publications declined. Between 2004 and 2020, 71 daily and 2,196 weekly publications closed. Since 2008, the U.S. lost 40,000 local journalists.

Scholars studying this issue refer to “news deserts,” entire cities and villages without a viable news outlet. Other publications survive, of course, but many have been devastated. Where I live in New York’s Hudson Valley, small quality publications have lost almost their entire news staffs to cutbacks.  They’re shadows of their former feisty watchdog selves.

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