schiffrin7_TED ALJIBEAFP via Getty Images_newsroom Ted Aljibe/AFP via Getty Images

How to Save Local News

Despite surging demand, shrinking revenues crippled many local newsrooms in 2020, raising the specter of a "media extinction event." Fortunately, promising initiatives that could bolster newsrooms are underway in many countries.

NEW YORK – The COVID-19 crisis has confirmed, yet again, the importance of broad access to clear, reliable, and accurate information. Throughout the pandemic, people all over the world have depended on reliable news sources to help them understand not only the virus itself, but also its impact on their economies and societies. And yet the people gathering, verifying, and delivering that information have been under unprecedented strain – raising the risk that, when the next crisis comes, we will have few trusted news sources to which to turn.

Unlike other industries that have suffered during the pandemic, journalism is not facing a drop in demand. On the contrary, Nielsen estimates that staying home – such as during crises – can lead to an almost 60% increase in media consumption. And, indeed, in the United States, media consumption reached historic highs in 2020; news programming comprised a major component of the increase.

The same trend can be seen around the world. A study of media consumption across North Asia during the pandemic found a sharp increase in use of digital news sources in Japan as worries about COVID-19 spread. And in Taiwan and South Korea, news channels were the primary beneficiaries of growth in television viewership.

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