How the Pandemic Has Accelerated the Decimation of Local News Outlets

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Last March, on the day California entered its first stay-at-home order, the entire staff of Easy Reader News was laid off. The Hermosa Beach weekly’s staff of 12 — four reporters, two office managers, two advertising representatives, an art director, bookkeeper, associate publisher and publisher — were all taken off the payroll as the paper shifted to a volunteer model. “This is not the first time since Easy Reader’s founding by a volunteer staff 50 years ago that the staff has been laid off. And it will not be the last time. The paper will come back, as we all will, only to be overwhelmed by a new, unforeseen challenge. And then to rise again,” Easy Reader’s publisher and owner, Kevin Cody, wrote in a public memo at the time. “Now is a hibernation period. We are conserving our resources until the weather warms, as it always does.” But for some other local news outlets, a hibernation period was simply not possible. Despite the urgent need for local news outlets to provide relevant information to residents about COVID-19, more than 60 local newsrooms have shuttered since the start of the pandemic, according to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism think-tank....

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