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‘Journalism is not in decline’: U of Illinois professor cites surge in nonprofit newsrooms

Writing and reporting
Shannon Wright
/
Special to NPR
The future of news media, especially for local outlets, is in dire straits as large enterprises buy out community newspapers.

The future of news media, especially for local outlets, is in dire straits as large enterprises buy out community newspapers.

“The hedge funds or new investors come in to harvest, in business terms, a distressed industry. You'll see them sell the real estate; they'll lay off staff,” said University of Illinois Professor and Global Investigative Journalism Network co-founder Brant Houston. “A major paper gets thinner and thinner, and then it gets delivered on every other day or once or twice a week. The business plan is for this to disappear after what last profits can be reaped from it or taken.”

However, “journalism is not in decline,” Houston added. He sees hope in the nonprofit newsroom model. There was a 17% growth in the number of new nonprofit newsrooms in 2022.

“Amidst the tremendous cuts we've had in mainstream and legacy media, the number of independent, nonprofit newsrooms — who had been vetted by the Institute for Nonprofit News — has grown from about 25 in 2009 to more than 450 now. There's a lot of opportunity and different sizes and missions in the nonprofit newsroom network.”

To learn more about the deep transformation that journalism has undergone in the last decade, including the surge in nonprofit newsrooms and collaborations, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.

There’s been explosive growth in nonprofit newsrooms. Here’s why

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.