Ohio lost 43% of newspaper journalists since 2012
Posted July 30, 2019 in Press Releases
Lawmakers should enact policies that support local news
In six short years, Ohio’s newspaper journalists declined by 43%, according to Policy Matters Ohio. In 2012, Ohio had 2,870 newsroom staffers to monitor city council meetings, photograph high school games and design the front page. In 2018, there were 1,640 newspaper reporters, editors, photographers and designers. Since 2004, all Ohio’s newspaper industry jobs – which include office clerks, truck drivers and people who work in circulation – fell by 58%.
“We need skilled professionals working as journalists to keep Ohioans informed about our communities,” said Caitlin Johnson, Policy Matters Communications Director. “Fewer and fewer people are doing these essential jobs. And they aren’t making much money despite often being expected to have a college degree and own a car.” The typical salary for a reporter in Ohio is just over $32,000 a year – about $5,000 below state median salary, Policy Matters found.
Newspaper job losses are driven by a drumbeat of closures, mergers and consolidations. In 2018, Ohio had 32% fewer newspapers than it did in 2004, according to researchers at University of North Carolina. Newspapers struggle to adapt to the digital age. They’ve lost print ad revenue to websites like Craigslist and haven’t been able to siphon enough digital ad revenue from powerhouses like Google and Facebook.
Since 2014, 30% of Ohio’s papers have changed ownership. In 2018, five of the nation’s largest newspaper chains –GateHouse, Gannett, Adams, AIM and Ogden – owned nearly 120 papers in Ohio, according to UNC. GateHouse owns 50 papers in Ohio, including the Akron Beacon Journal and Columbus Dispatch. It wants to buy Gannett, which owns 11 Ohio papers including the Cincinnati Enquirer. If that merger goes through, GateHouse will have papers in more than one-quarter of Ohio counties. Independently owned newspapers, like the Youngstown Vindicator, struggle to compete. The Vindicator will close at the end of August, making Youngstown the largest U.S. city without a newspaper.
When newspapers close, communities lose part of the fabric that weaves them together. Research shows civic engagement drops and local government can become less efficient.
“Local news benefits everyone and shouldn’t be left to the whims of market forces,” said Policy Matters Research Director Zach Schiller. “Ohio’s newspaper crisis demands public policy intervention. Lawmakers should act before it’s too late.”
State policymakers can support local news by boosting support for public broadcasting by $5 million a year, Schiller said. They can follow New Jersey’s lead by investing in local journalism through collaboration with educational institutions and community organizations. Policy Matters also called for Congress to approve legislation allowing traditional media enterprises to become nonprofits, with appropriate safeguards. Congress should tax multi-billion-dollar online platforms like Facebook and Google and use the money to create an endowment for independent journalism.