Read All About It: COVID-19 Threatens News Industry

It's an ironic twist worthy of an Alanis Morissette song. The biggest news story in years could take down large segments of the news media. The coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing economic shutdown has affected nearly all industries, including news and information. In recent days, USA Today's owner announced mass employee furloughs, while other newspapers around the country are reducing production to fewer days per week.

Make no mistake. The COVID-19 pandemic didn't create economic problems for newspapers, but it exacerbated a trend that has been growing for years. "The newspaper business, which was already struggling to keep audience, has had to cut back on staff and days of print, just to keep costs in check," says T.J. Aulds, a former newspaper man who owns the local news website I-45 Now. "We've had advertisers who were already on board with us who've backed down and said when things get back to normal we'll come back, and we've had others in the pipeline who've now backed off."

Aulds tells KTRH that there is no way for news outlets to replace those local advertisers whose doors are now closed. "It's the local mom and pop stores, the small businesses, who are the ones taking a step back (from advertising), because they are affected more by all those folks who can't come out to go shopping with them," he says.

The economic struggles for the news industry come even as ratings for news content are surging during the pandemic. "At a time when (news outlets) actually have higher demand for what they're producing, they see folks pulling back on the money that's actually needed to pay for that production," says Aulds. "And it's a tough balance to have."

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