Where Did Our Local Newspapers Go? – OpEd

I no longer receive my local newspaper, the Austin-American Statesman.

Oh, the paper still comes, but it’s just paper, minus the news part — news that our community once counted on to keep up with local government doings, corporate shenanigans, citizen actions, and other critical features of our city’s democratic life.

What happened? Wall Street profiteers swept in a few years ago to conglomeratize, homogenize, and financialize the Statesman.

It’s now a money cog in the Gannett/USA Today chain of some 200 major dailies that the syndicate seized. Indeed, Gannett itself is wholly owned by SoftBank, a Japanese hedge fund. Those distant bankers are not interested in local news, but in slashing news staffs to fatten their profits. In Austin alone, Softbank has cut two-thirds of the paper’s journalists since taking over — and coverage of local stories has also plunged by two-thirds.

Interestingly, the Statesman recently ran a front-page piece about a local union protest by flight attendants demanding fair wages. On that same day, the paper also reported that Uber and Lyft drivers were striking in Austin.

But at the same time, the Statesman journalists were picketing right in front of the paper’s office, protesting the greed of SoftBank/Gannett and the demise of local news. Curiously, Statesman editors did not consider this local news about our newspaper to be news, so they cravenly kept this important information from the people.

Austin was not alone in this news blackout by the chain’s managers. Journalists at a dozen other Gannett papers — from Akron, Ohio to South Bend, Indiana — were picketing, yet, none of those papers ran a peep about their journalists’ defense of local news. Nor did Gannett’s flagship paper, USA Today, mention this nationwide union rebellion by its own journalists.

To support journalists and real journalism, go to newsguild.org.

This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.