Newspapering News and Burning Book Bridges

What is it like to work at a small-market local newspaper in the United States?

Earlier this month the Columbia School of Journalism’s TOW Center in association with the Columbia Journalism Review published the results of a survey of small local newspapers

The observations in this report are based on an online survey conducted between Tuesday, August 4,  2020 and Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

We received 324 eligible responses from a mix of editors, reporters, publishers, and other roles at small-scale local newspapers — print publications with a circulation below 50,000 — in the United States. 

Among the many topics covered in the extensive survey are:

 – The pervasiveness of COVID-19
 – Growing job insecurity
 – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Why the survey is important:

Over the previous 15 years, more than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, with 300 newspapers closing in the past two years alone.

Around 1,300 to 1,400 communities that had their own newspapers in 2004 now have no news coverage. Close to half of all counties — 1,540 — only have one newspaper, usually a weekly. Almost 200 counties in the country have no newspaper at all.

Newsroom employment at U.S. newspapers (including local titles) dropped by nearly half (47 percent) between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000.

Yet at the same time, based on 2019 research of 100 randomly sampled communities across the U.S., local newspapers remain the largest source of original local journalism, stressing the importance of local newsrooms not just to their communities but also to the wider news ecosystem.

As stated the TOW Center survey is lengthy and in-depth.

So Nieman Lab has provided a summary of what they consider the more important findings.

“Our readers are old, older, and oldest.”


Small newspapers, with circulations under 50,000, make up the vast majority of newspapers in the U.S. And the majority of their employees are pessimistic about these papers’ futures, a report out Thursday from Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism shows.

Nieman Lab points to some subhedders:

— The overall trends are depressing
Print still plays a pretty big role in respondents’ work
(Almost) everyone became a Covid reporter
Competition from social media, from TV, from life
Who wants to work at local papers



The Village Voice has returned not just online, but in print.

Also returning to the print edition is Ward Sutton!


The New York Times shuns comics, but games are a different animal.

The Mini, a compact five-by-five daily crossword, as the diminutive name suggests, is built to be addictive. It’s free, it’s easy to work — but not ridiculously easy — a morning brain starter that can usually be solved in under two minutes.

That sounds like an amusing but tiny thing in the vast expanse of New York Times content. However, it is one of the big stars of the company’s popular and lucrative Games division.

Paid digital subscriptions to Games stand at 930,000.

Poynter reports on an attraction boosting online circulation.


Booking on change.

image via Heartspace

In our last Hey Kids! Comics! list we mentioned that a number of books scheduled for October had been delayed. It has become such a problem that Publishers Weekly is tracking the books arriving late.

Publishers Weekly also posts Brooke Warner‘s call to reinvent book distribution.
Her suggestions:

-Print fewer books, and find ways to print what we can sell.
-Find better ways to distribute books to the marketplace.
-Cancel returns.
-Sell more digital and audio.
-Raise the prices of all books.
-Empower authors to work with and support bookstores.