Wisconsin Newspapers Hit Hard In Pandemic

It has been a very tough year for many professions and groups in Wisconsin as the pandemic raged. Reporters, journalists, and newsrooms of newspapers and print publications were not spared. As noted by Poynter, “It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to“.

I agree it is important to know the impact of job cuts and the business losses for the newspaper profession. I say this because the morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world. 

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

This all resonates because the need for accurate information is more important than ever. The past four years have been a daily reminder as to why that is true. Having access to independently gathered, accurate information is as essential and vital to our process of governing as is the right to vote.

Now take a look at what happened to the newspaper industry in Wisconsin, reported by Poynter over the past year.

  • In March, Isthmus, a weekly in Madison, Wisconsin, announced it had to “go dark for an undetermined amount of time.” In November, it announced it applied for nonprofit status. 
  • Shepherd Express in Milwaukee suspended its print edition.
  • The Janesville Gazette will stop printing on Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Washburn County Register in Shell Lake will close at the end of September. It’s owned by the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association.
  • Forum News Service reported layoffs and the end of Monday and Friday print in its “more than two-dozen newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.”
  • The Capital Times in Madison announced furloughs and pay cuts.
  • Capital Newspapers in Madison laid off at least one person, Poynter has learned. It is co-owned by Lee Enterprises and The Capital Times Company.
  • Lee Enterprises had furloughs and cost-cutting measures, including a 20% pay cut for executives. It owns six newspapers in Wisconsin.

There are many reasons to feel sad and nostalgic over losing reporters and column inches in newspapers in our communities. But I wonder if the country can be as strong and educated without the work that is done by newspaper reporters, and the printing presses that roll out the daily first read of history?

And so it goes.