Can’t Say they Didn’t Warn Ya -- Kansas City’s Northeast News’ Blank Front Page is Just the Beginning

What happens when local newspapers just completely disappear? That’s what the editors of Kansas City’s Northeast News are trying to get their readers to open their eyes to. Leaving their front page of Wednesday’s issue blank became its community’s wake up call — a warning sign for what might come if it and others ceased publication. 

Hyperlocal newspapers like the Northeast News and the Jackson County Advocate, which printed its last issue in December, provided communities with consistent coverage focusing on neighborhood stories and issues that mattered to their residents. The pandemic has exacerbated the loss of advertising revenue due to the domination of the ad marketplace by the tech giants. A UNC study has even shown that one-fourth of newspapers nationwide have been forced to close in the past 15 years. 

We now know that news outlets never really had a fair shot at competing in the online ad marketplace. Google dominates every layer of the digital ad ecosystem and even had a secret deal with Facebook to manipulate ad prices. For a paper like the Northeast News, which is free and relies 100% on advertising money, surviving in the digital ad marketplace controlled by Google and Facebook is close to impossible. 

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

“The decision to publish a blank page as the cover of Kansas City’s Northeast News is just the beginning of what could eventually be the extinction of local news. This pandemic has made clear that hyperlocal news is essential to keeping communities informed and to providing much-needed local news that is often overlooked in bigger publications. Local stories matter. Yet, the only way to protect these smaller publications is by having a financial model that works for the industry. Google and Facebook currently stand in the way of that financial model, and if regulators keep waiting to take action and break up their online marketplace monopoly, local news will be wiped out.”