This week brought dire news from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2008 to 2018, newsroom employment in newspapers, radio, broadcast television and cable declined by 25 percent. Those statistics were part of a Pew Research Center report issued Tuesday — the same day floodwaters rose in Lexington, Elm Creek, Kearney and Gibbon, and area residents were hungry for every shred of information they could get their hands on.
People needed to know if their drinking water was safe, when the power was going to be restored, how to dry out their flooded basements and what to guard against as an army of out-of-town contractors descends for a slice of the action.
In the weeks ahead, local media will continue to serve the public’s needs. We will tell you how to get the best insurance settlement, how to apply for aid from FEMA and the Small Business Administration, and where washouts and weakened infrastructure threaten your safety.
In Kearney, we face a significant threat to one of our largest industries. Tourism accounts for 1,800 jobs in Buffalo County and produces millions of dollars in sales tax revenues to help operate our government, but currently 500 motel rooms are out of commission and event organizers are switching to venues outside Kearney.
How well we at the Hub can serve the public’s needs depends upon the resources we have to produce coverage in all the formats consumers desire.
Newsrooms in radio and TV are facing challenges, but at newspapers the job losses of the past decade are most pronounced. According to the Pew report, in 2008, there were approximately 71,000 employees working at U.S. newspapers. In 2018, that number was just 38,000, a 47 percent decline.
Six weeks ago, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet predicted that “most local newspapers are going to die in the next five years. The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news.”
During the past 20 years, newspapers have seen their franchise whittled away as online companies launched sites that provide up-to-the-second weather reports, employee recruitment, news reports and other services that once were the domain of traditional media, including newspapers.
“Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire,” Baquet said in May during the International News Media Association World Congress in New York City.
We at the Hub disagree with some of Baquet’s predictions. We intend to be around well beyond five years. We are evaluating and evolving every day how we perform our mission and what we need to do next. In this era of change there is great opportunity — but to succeed and sustain our journalistic mission, we need our community’s support.
Please ask yourself: Where would I look for information during this week’s flooding and danger if there were no local media?
Without our community’s support, we at the Kearney Hub face a tough battle. The last thing we desire is for our readers to one day wake up and discover they’re living in a place that’s unserved by local journalists.