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Saving Journalism: A Vision for the Post-Covid World

by Dr. Anya Schiffrin
Dozens of plans to help save journalism have emerged since the Covid-19 pandemic decimated media outlets around the world. This report summarizes some of the trends we’ve seen and evaluates where they currently stand. Most promising are Australia’s efforts to get Google and Facebook to pay for news and efforts in the U.S. to get laws and investment that would support local news.

The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed yet again the importance of clear, reliable, and accurate information for societies. Throughout the pandemic audiences have turned to trusted sources for scientific information about the disease and its spread.

Yet even as demand for their work has soared, journalists have been laid off and furloughed around the world. News audiences might have risen dramatically in 2020 (Laungani et al., 2020), but shrinking revenues— particularly advertising revenue—have crippled many newsrooms. The economic effects of Covid-19 have helped to create what some are calling a “media extinction event” (Ahmed, 2020). This is true in the United States and globally. At this writing, the Poynter Institute’s layoff tracker site reports that in the U.S., at least 21 local newspapers have merged, at least 1,400 newsroom staffers have been permanently laid off, at least 56 outlets have temporarily suspended print editions, and at least 60 local newsrooms have been closed (Hare, 2020a; Hare 2020b). In the US, journalists of color are most susceptible to being laid off, the Washington Post reported in May (Liu, 2020).

These trends are also apparent around the world. As Botswanan journalist Ntibinyane Ntibinyane warned in April 2020, many sub-Saharan African newspapers might not survive Covid-19 (Ntibinyane, 2020). In Uganda, the New Vision suspended four regional papers that published in local languages (ibid). Media24 in South Africa planned to lay off more than 500 staff and close several outlets (eNCA, 2020). Overall, South African outlets have lost between 40 and 100 percent of their ad revenue since mid-March 2020 (Reuters, 2020). Multiple outlets in Kenya have cut salaries, put staff on compulsory leave, and are reimagining business models (Business Today, 2020).

Similar problems have been seen in countries as diverse as Bolivia—where layoffs came after advertising and circulation declines hit legacy media as well as online outlets—the UK, the Philippines, Brazil, and India (Lubianco, 2020a; Drury, 2020; Tantuco, 2020; Lubianco, 2020b; Peñaranda, 2020, Schmall et al., 2020).

This report focuses on proposals to address the financial problems devastating journalism in the Covid-19 era. It surveys new initiatives under way to address the present moment, assesses the likelihood of success, and profiles the key players. Countries can learn from one another about how to support quality news and information.

Contact Person

Sabine Murphy

Sabine Murphy bild

Project Manager

sabine.murphy@kas.de +1 202 464 5840