Rural America Explores Local News Crisis In Smaller Market

The standard metric for the crisis is the decreasing number of newspapers, but more than 90% of U.S. counties still have at least one paper. The forces that are causing closures or mergers are having a greater effect on quality than quantity, creating “ghost newspapers” that often lack a physical presence and fail to serve its interests with news coverage needed to support local democracy, civics and business.

The more serious quantity problem is on the demand side, not the supply side. Fewer citizens are interested enough in local news to buy or subscribe to a newspaper; they think they can get the “news” they need from free sources, without regard to those sources’ reliability.

But many, if not most, communities still have enough citizens who understand what quality news is, and there are startup and legacy news outlets who know how to serve them. We heard evidence of that, and urgings for change, at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, held June 7 in Lexington, Kentucky, and online.

Digital and print startups are finding success where ghost newspapers are failing their communities. One of the nation’s newest and largest newspaper chains consists mainly of former Gannett Co. newspapers, many of them ghosts that are being revived. Smart, independent owners are finding new ways to generate revenue and are testing the nonprofit world. More newspapers are going nonprofit to survive.

One of the best testimonies of the demand for local news was a session with four women who are finding startup success in markets no longer well-served by chain-owned dailies. Two have for-profit papers: Lynne Campbell of The Community News in Macomb, Illinois, and Debra Tobin of the Logan-Hocking Times in Logan, Ohio. Two have nonprofit, digital-only news outlets: Jennifer P. Brown of the Hoptown Chronicle in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and Nicole DeCriscio Bowe of The Owen News in Spencer, Indiana, which is just getting started but has support from the local community foundation and Chamber of Commerce

Canadian Publishers Seek Antitrust Probe Of Meta Blocking News

Canadian news industry groups on Tuesday asked the country’s antitrust regulator to investigate Meta Platforms’ (META.O) decision to block news on its platforms in the country, accusing the Facebook parent of abusing its dominant position.

Meta started blocking news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all users in Canada last week in response to a law requiring internet giants to pay for news articles.

Canada’s Online News Act, part of a global trend to make tech firms pay for news, became law in June but has not yet come into effect. The government is finalizing rules that would require the platforms to share some advertising revenue when the law is implemented by the end of this year.

“Through its decision to block news content from its digital platforms, Meta seeks to impair Canadian news organizations’ ability to compete effectively in the news publishing and online advertising markets,” news industry groups said in an application with Canada’s Competition Bureau.

The application was filed by industry bodies News Media Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, along with public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada, and asks the Competition Bureau to investigate Meta and stop it from blocking news.

“Meta’s anticompetitive conduct, which has attracted the attention of regulators around the world, will strengthen its already dominant position in advertising and social media distribution and harm Canadian journalism,” the applicants said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Competition Bureau confirmed that it had received a complaint from Canadian news industry groups and that it was in the process of conducting a preliminary review of the matter.

“The Bureau is gathering information to consider whether this conduct may fall under the Competition Act, including ways that this specific conduct may harm competition,” the spokesperson said

Local Newspaper Group National World Makes Ambitious Bid For Daily Telegraph

Local Newspaper Group National World Makes Ambitious Bid For Daily Telegraph

Edinburgh Evening News and Yorkshire Evening Post owner is ‘possible participant’ in sale, despite strike ballot and staff exodus

A local newspaper publisher facing a staff exodus and a strike ballot over low pay has announced it is considering a bid for the Daily Telegraph. National World, which owns regional titles including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, told the stock market it was a “possible participant” in the bidding for Telegraph Media Group.

The company said owning the Telegraph would fit with its policy of making acquisitions and then “implementing its new operating model”. This approach includes using artificial intelligence to automate the process of creating newspapers and reduce the need for human involvement.

National World’s ambitious announcement was made just an hour after the National Union of Journalists said it would ballot reporters at the company on strike action over low pay and poor career progression. One recently departed National World reporter described being “absolutely horrified” by an internal culture of “relentless cost-cutting, axing of staff and gutting of titles”. Another said her former colleagues were “profoundly disillusioned”, and that the company’s business model involved “getting lots of young journalists to churn out massive volumes of stories” to attract online traffic.

The union said National World was losing staff, with at least 45 journalists having left the company since June at titles including the Blackpool Gazette, Edinburgh Evening News, Lancashire Post, Portsmouth News, Sheffield Star, Shields Gazette, Sunderland Echo and Yorkshire Evening Post.

Exactly how National World, which is dealing with declining revenues at its titles, would finance a bid for the Telegraph is not clear. The company was founded by the former Mirror executive David Montgomery and bought the assets of the former Johnston Press empire for the knockdown price of £10m at the end of 2020. Johnston Press paid hundreds of millions of pounds for a large number of regional newspaper titles in the mid-2000s, including paying the Telegraph’s owners, the Barclay brothers, £160m for the Scotsman in 2005, only to collapse under the weight of debt as the advertising market slumped.