Northwoods Star Journal: The cost to all citizens in a community when a newspaper closes

By Andrew Johnson

The financial health of these newspapers has been challenged in recent years with loss of local retail advertising, transition to digital news delivery, negative effects of recent newsprint tariffs, announcement of huge newspaper postage increases (50%-plus) over the next five years, and the recent huge negative impact of COVID-19 on many community businesses which advertise in local papers.

One of the main things a newspaper does is that it represents the public in keeping a local open government. It does this by receiving information about activities/actions occurring at local government meetings, gathering information from open government records and publishing government notices. These three things are the foundation for open government and without any one of them, “openness” is compromised.

The loss of all of those things can be devastating and often occurs when a newspaper closes. Up to this point in time, there has been no effective replacement of a community newspaper in print or online.

One of the impacts of losing a newspaper is an increase in operation costs of local governments. I am going to reference one study on local governments following  newspaper closures to illustrate the financial impact alone of such a loss, Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Newspaper Closures on Public Finance, by Pengjie Gao, University of Notre Dame; Change Lee and Dermot Murphy, University of Illinois at Chicago, February 12, 2019.