Editorial: Yes, The Coronavirus is Hurting Journalism
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, approximately one third of Americans are not sure whether or not the coronavirus pandemic has affected the news media financially. Another 17% percent of Americans think that the pandemic has helped journalism, and another 17% think that it has not had much of an impact at all.
So just to be clear right up front: YES, the pandemic is definitely hurting all types of journalism in many different ways.
Regular reports of news industry layoffs and furloughs have circulated as both large and small media companies have taken a financial hit. Many businesses impacted by mandated closures immediately ceased all advertising, having a ripple effect on tv, print and digital journalism. Poynter has a pretty comprehensive list of media outlets that have reduced coverage, laid off staff or shuttered entirely if you’re interested in seeing just how widespread the impacts have been all across the US.
Here at Columbus Underground, we have felt that sting as well. Many of our advertisers fall into the category of businesses that have closed (restaurants, bars, arts and entertainment venues, festivals, etc). The events that we produce also generate income for our journalism operations, and we’ve had to cancel and/or postpone multiple events including the Healthy Living Festival (cancelled) and Urban Living Tour (postponed to a later date TBD).
Unlike much larger media conglomerates, we have the ability to act more nimbly and have never operated with any debt hanging over our business operations. As the pandemic first began, we were quick to reprioritize our staff into new roles working from home, reduce several expenses during a prolonged office closure, research journalism grants and small business grants to apply for, and launched an online merchandise store to sell some of the leftover inventory from previous events.
Meanwhile, there’s been no shortage of work to be done. We’ve published over 140 articles on coronavirus coverage to keep readers informed on how it is impacting local citizens, nonprofits, artists, businesses and neighborhoods. We’ve avoided sensationalizing this news when covering reports from state leaders, and provided a variety of viewpoints and opinions about reopening strategies.
We also launched a Donorbox campaign, asking for direct contributions from our readers for the first time ever and are proud and grateful for the support we’ve received. We have never charged money for news access through a paywall system and prefer to keep all information free for everyone, so having this optional model has been extremely helpful during these difficult times.
Due to these quick changes, and with your community support, we have kept our staff working. Everyone has been safely working from home since mid-March and will continue to do so until there’s a consensus that it’s safe to resume normal business operations in our Downtown offices.
Many of our community’s small businesses currently remain closed, many major festivals in Columbus have been postponed to 2021, and many reopened businesses are operating in a reduced capacity. That means that advertising has yet to fully return to our industry.
Regardless of how long the pandemic will last, Columbus Underground will continue to serve the community in the best way possible. This has not been easy for any small business out there, and our hearts go out to everyone who is struggling and suffering during this time.