The News Media

September 18, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 33
Can they reverse their fortunes amid cascading threats?
By Tom Price


After decades of newspaper decline, all American news media are struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic recession. By curtailing or shuttering millions of businesses, the pandemic has further reduced the advertising revenue that publications rely on to survive. This has forced thousands of news organizations to cut staff, reduce production schedules or even close. Hedge funds are increasingly taking over failing newspapers and gutting their operations in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. Amid these setbacks, journalists are scrambling to cover a tsunami of news produced by the pandemic, racial unrest and a presidential campaign that many consider the most important in generations. These challenges, according to media experts, hold profound implications for both the health of American journalism and the durability of American democracy, which depends on journalists to keep citizens informed. Some experts see glimmers of hope: Public hunger for news has boosted readership, and news organizations are finding novel sources of revenue, such as charitable donations.

Photo of empty newspaper boxes in Biddeford, Maine, in October 2019. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Jonathan Wiggs)
Newspaper boxes sit empty in Biddeford, Maine, in October 2019 after the 135-year-old Journal Tribune closed. The pandemic-caused recession and a continued loss of advertising revenue have added to the media's financial troubles. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Jonathan Wiggs)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Journalism, Newspapers, and the Media
Jan. 28, 2022  Misinformation and the Media
Oct. 02, 2020  Social Media Platforms
Sep. 18, 2020  The News Media
Aug. 24, 2018  Conspiracy Theories
Jun. 09, 2017  Trust in Media
May 30, 2014  Digital Journalism
May 03, 2013  Media Bias
Apr. 26, 2013  Free Speech at Risk
Apr. 12, 2013  Combat Journalism
Nov. 2010  Press Freedom
Oct. 08, 2010  Journalism Standards in the Internet Age
Feb. 05, 2010  Press Freedom
Mar. 27, 2009  Future of Journalism Updated
Jun. 09, 2006  Blog Explosion Updated
Jan. 20, 2006  Future of Newspapers
Apr. 08, 2005  Free-Press Disputes
Oct. 15, 2004  Media Bias
Oct. 10, 2003  Media Ownership Updated
Dec. 25, 1998  Journalism Under Fire
Jun. 05, 1998  Student Journalism
Sep. 20, 1996  Civic Journalism
Sep. 23, 1994  Courts and the Media
Aug. 24, 1990  Hard Times at the Nation's Newspapers
Jan. 19, 1990  Finding Truth in the Age of ‘Infotainment’
Aug. 18, 1989  Libel Law: Finding the Right Balance
Jun. 06, 1986  Magazine Trends
Oct. 12, 1984  News Media and Presidential Campaigns
Jul. 15, 1983  State of American Newspapers
Oct. 23, 1981  High Cost of Libel
Dec. 23, 1977  Media Reforms
Mar. 11, 1977  News Media Ownership
Jun. 21, 1974  Access to the Media
Dec. 20, 1972  Newsmen's Rights
Aug. 16, 1972  Blacks in the News Media
Dec. 15, 1971  Magazine Industry Shake-Out
Jul. 18, 1969  Competing Media
Sep. 02, 1964  Politicians and the Press
Dec. 04, 1963  Libel Suits and Press Freedom
Jan. 09, 1963  Newspaper Mergers
Dec. 20, 1961  Reading Boom: Books and Magazines
Dec. 02, 1959  Privileged Communications
Apr. 25, 1956  Newsprint Deficit
May 06, 1953  Government and the Press
Sep. 21, 1948  Press and State
Sep. 05, 1947  Newsprint Supply
Mar. 26, 1947  Facsimile Newspapers
Dec. 10, 1945  World Press Freedom
May 01, 1940  New Experiments in Newspaper-Making
Nov. 04, 1933  Press Freedom Under the Recovery Program
Consumer Behavior
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Employment and Labor
General Social Trends
Internet and Social Media
Journalism and the News
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Print Media
Radio and Television
Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies