New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet painted a bleak picture of the future of local journalism, saying in an interview that he expected most local papers to fold up within five years.
“The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news … I don’t know what the answer is,” Baquet said in an interview with the International News Media Association on Sunday. “Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire.”
“I think that everybody who cares about news — myself included, and all of you — should take this on as an issue,” Baquet continued. “Because we’re going to wake up one day and there are going to be entire states with no journalism or with little tiny pockets of journalism.”
The grim assessment comes as each day seemingly brings new news of layoffs at locals papers, consolidations, or outright closures. Most recently, the 182-year-old New Orleans Times-Picayune was sold to a regional rival — and much of its staff was laid off in the process. Things are no better in digital, where industry titans like Vice Media, BuzzFeed and HuffPost have all slashed hundreds more positions between them.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns multiple local papers, has also said that he sees little future for the business beyond a few marquee titles.
“No one except the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and now probably the Washington Post, has come up with a digital product that really in any significant way will replace the revenue that is being lost as print newspapers lose both circulation and advertising,” Buffett said last May during an investor conference. “It is very difficult to see — with a lack of success in terms of important dollars rising from digital — it’s difficult to see how the print product survives over time.”