Local News Outlets Dealt a Crippling Blow by This Biggest of Stories

Charleston City Paper, in South Carolina, described the outbreak as a “storm of a disease.” Pittsburgh City Paper, using a local insult, referred to the crisis as a “jagoff.” Submerge Magazine in Sacramento wrote that the coronavirus “is poised to decimate” the publication. Indy Week in Durham, N.C., likened it to an earthquake that has forced the paper to face “the prospect of weeks or months deep in the red.”

The Pulse of Chattanooga, Tenn., said last week that it was discontinuing its print edition, and The Isthmus, a weekly in Madison, Wis., announced that it would “go dark” for a time. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, The Coast said that, after 27 years, it was going online only and laying off nearly 20 employees. The Chicago Reader will start switching off between PDF and print editions this week.

The Stranger, an esteemed alternative weekly founded in 1991 in Seattle, temporarily laid off 18 employees this month, including its managing editor, and suspended print production. The publication said 90 percent of its revenue stemmed from ticketing fees and ads for rock clubs, museums, theaters and other venues. By creating a “hellscape of unforeseen economic events,” the pandemic has “virtually eliminated this income all at once,” The Stranger reported.

Euclid Media Group, the owner of Riverfront Times and six other weeklies, has slashed nearly 80 percent of its work force, said the chief operating officer, Michael Wagner. Those who stayed — a “scrappy crew,” Mr. Wagner called them — accepted significant pay cuts. The hope, he said, is to hire back as many of them as possible once the crisis is over.

Sanford Nowlin, the editor in chief of San Antonio Current, a Euclid Media publication, said the paper’s advertising and events businesses had been strong before the virus made its presence felt in Texas.

“This was one of those things that hit us out of the blue,” he said.

Larger publications have also made adjustments. The most drastic response from a major metropolitan daily has come out of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., where The Advocate and The Times-Picayune — now one news organization, after The Advocate bought The Times-Picayune last year — will furlough 10 percent of the work force, the editor, Peter Kovacs, said Monday.

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