On today's BradCast, the news remains largely grim --- we'd expect no less during a global pandemic --- but there continue to be signs of light, way, way...way down at the end of the tunnel. For many in the journalism industry, however, the tunnel may be far too long and dark to make it out to the other side. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First up, thanks to an entirely dysfunctional, entirely failed Presidential Administration, things that should already be getting better --- the easy stuff, like testing, personal protective equipment and ventilator shortages --- shamefully, do not appear to be getting better in many parts of the country. The death toll in the U.S. has now officially surpassed both China's and our own on 9/11.
But we see more and more signs each day that at least physical distancing appears to be working as hoped --- slowly, but with unmistakable progress in locations where it is being dutifully practiced. But there remains a long way to go, and a dark tunnel to get through until we see that full light.
With nobody on the federal level leading the way, states and cities continue to do so as best as they can. But it is difficult if not impossible for them, or the news media, to know what to even expect on a macro level as the economy heads into completely unknown territory. According to at least one new economic analysis from the St. Louis Fed, unemployment rates could end up dwarfing even the highest levels of the Great Depression, much less the Great Recession.
And with that cheery news, we're joined today by longtime media industry expert CRAIG SILVERMAN, BuzzFeed News' Media Editor, to discuss the troubling outlook for independent local media as well corporate media amid the coronavirus pandemic. The industry is one of the first to feel the brunt of a nearly national shutdown. Ironically enough, the readership for many news outlets has "skyrocketed across the board" online, he says. "People are hungry for the latest quality information about what's going on with the coronavirus, and they're going to news organizations to get that information."
At the same time, however, ad revenue has collapsed and the same outlets across the country (and world) seeing a spike in readership are being forced to shut down the print sides of their publications, lay off journalists, and otherwise scale back reporting at a time that good local journalism is needed more than ever.
A number of alt-weeklies have already gone under, as their ad revenue is based almost entirely on industries like restaurants, bars, movie theaters, concerts and live events that have all been forced to shut down. "The alternative weeklies are kind of canaries in the coal mine. A lot of alt-weeklies have already gone out of business in Canada and the United States," Silverman warns. "A lot of the very small newspapers, especially that are part of chains, or had debt, they may not be able to come back."
"Now, we've got some of the biggest newspaper chains in the US, like Gannett [publisher of USA Today and more than a dozen other major papers], yesterday they announced they're doing unpaid newsroom furloughs for one week a month. Los Angeles Times is significantly cutting back on its print sections Monday to Friday. Other newspapers are getting rid of print editions," he tells me.
Silverman explains what one journalism industry analyst is describing as a "full extinction event" for many outlets, and the millions of dollars in lost revenue for some of the largest ones, thanks to a bizarre ad blocking scheme that some major brands are instituting on coronavirus related news stories.
We also discuss what you, dear readers and listeners, can do to help. "This is the moment for you to pay for the media that you care about," he says. "It's about people deciding for themselves what media they want to support. It may not be a big national outlet. If you have money right now --- and that is a big 'if', a lot of people are struggling --- but if you have money and you can afford maybe $5, $10, $15 a month, this is the time to stand up and show that support. A lot of people in newsrooms who are getting laid off, furloughed, who are getting pay cuts, this can make a difference if enough people step up and start to do it."
Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report as Trump's EPA, even in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis, has now officially reversed landmark Obama-era mileage standards for cars that, in addition to combating climate change and lowering gas prices, would have also helped prevent some 1,400 unnecessary American deaths per year. But that's not all the Administration is doing to undermine the planet's climate and the health of Americans while most folks are looking the other way, and as the plastic industry is hoping to find profit in a pandemic...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)