May 13


Online news outlets are hot, newspapers are not

The latest round of Pulitzer Prizes underscores the decline of metro daily newspapers and the rise of digital nonprofit news organizations.

The awarding of Pulitzer Prizes is about celebrating the accomplishments of newspaper journalism. The latest announcements were made last week, and while there was a lot of good work to salute, there were somber undertones.

No regional dailies won a Pulitzer. That underscores how most of them have become shells of their former selves. 

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t great work being produced on the local level. Four Pulitizers were awarded to online news outlets, three of them based in Chicago and Santa Cruz, California. 

In all, eight newspapers were finalists for a Pulitzer, vs. 12 online outlets. (The balance were an assortment of wire serves, magazines and broadcasters.)

As Nieman Lab proclaimed: This year’s Pulitzer Prizes were a coming-out party for online media — and a marker of local newspapers’ decline.

It’s no wonder that the struggles of local newspapers are causing a crisis of confidence. The resulting loss of “swagger,” as Politico put it, is that “today’s newsrooms shy away from publishing true stories that someone might claim cause “harm” — that modern term that covers all emotional distress — or even worse, which could offend powerful interests.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Polling released last week by the Pew Research Center found most Americans believe local news is important to the well-being of their communities and that local outlets are generally accurate and otherwise doing an acceptable job. 

The public, however, is under the false impression that local outlets are doing well financially.  (Television stations are, but newspapers, the source of most original local reporting, are not). That may explain why only 15 percent of those polled said they have paid for local news in the past year. (Pssst, part of your cable bill goes to your local TV stations.)

The Pew polling also found the public’s growing preference to get their news on digital platforms (48 percent), vs. 32 percent for television and 9 percent each for print newspapers and radio. 

Or, to paraphrase Horace Greeley: “Go digital, young man.”

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox
* indicates required

Newsletters *

The New York Coalition for Open Government filed Freedom of Information requests with 70 state agencies to gauge how closely they adhered to the FOI Law. The response was “problematic.” Out west, a judge in Washington slapped the state patrol with a $750,000 fine for withholding public records requested by the Seattle Times.

Two informative reads from The Buffalo News: Downtown has lost 20,000 workers and taxpayers across Buffalo’s suburbs are getting hit with property tax hikes. It’s not just Amherst. 

Plug Power, recipient of subsidies worth $4 million per job to locate at the STAMP industrial park north of Batavia, continues to lose a ton of money. Nearly $300 million the last quarter alone. Reminds me of the state’s ill-fated investment in SolarCity.

An op-ed in The New York Times says Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is evolving into a pragmatic progressive politician

Donate to support our nonprofit newsroom

We’re 70 years on from Brown vs. the Board of Education and things are trending in the wrong direction, according to the Hechinger Report.

Scientists are despairing over the climate cliff we’re headed for while Donald Trump is asking the fossil fuel industry for $1 billion in campaign contributions to help get him elected so he can roll back regulations that address global warming.

Why the news blackout? The Buffalo News has all but stopped covering our baseball Bisons. Oh, there’s the occasional feature story. But no game results, aside from the day-old scores in agate type. There’s no stories, not even box scores. I’ll bet there’s not another Triple A team that receives such scant coverage. If continued, it has to hurt Bison attendance, as fans have no way of following the team. Meanwhile, the Bills and Sabres are out of season, but it doesn’t stop The News from publishing stories daily.

Investigative Post

Get our newsletters delivered to your inbox * indicates required

Newsletters *