In This Review
In 2004—an ordinary, healthy year for the newspaper business—The Washington Post earned $143 million in profit. Five years later, in 2009, the paper lost $164 million amid a shift from paid print to free digital consumption, the erosion of its classified and local advertising businesses, and the global financial crisis. The collapse of its business model forced round after round of cutbacks, staff buyouts, and layoffs. That year, the Post shut all its domestic reporting bureaus outside the Washington area, including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
The Post’s position was typical of the country’s healthiest papers. That same year, The New York Times, facing possible bankruptcy, sold most of the new headquarters building into which it had just moved and arranged a $250 million high-interest loan from the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Around the country, more vulnerable papers closed down or put themselves up for sale. With few exceptions, the great family-owned franchises were being gobbled up by private equity firms with little sense of civic obligation and even less understanding of journalism.
In the years since, the profession of journalism has contracted and grown ever more precarious. Between 2008 and 2017, employment among newspaper journalists fell by nearly
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