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March 17, 2009

What Happens When Newspapers Close, A Study

A new study out of Princeton examines what happens to a city after it loses a newspaper. The study looks at Cincinnati, which in 2007 lost the Cincinnati Post, leaving the Enquirer as the only paper in town. The authors tracked engagement with public life over the next year, trying to measure how losing a paper made a difference:

The next year, fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell. We exploit a diff erence-in-diff erences strategy { comparing changes in outcomes before and after the Post's closure in suburbs where the newspaper off ered more or less intensive coverage { and the fact that the Post's closing date was fixed 30 years in advance to rule out some non-causal explanations for these results. Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers - even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed - can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life.

The authors note that "a century ago, 689 cities in the United States had competing daily newspapers; at the start of this year, only about 15 did." 

So what kind of impact will the closing of newspapers have on the arts? I have numerous conversations with arts organizations worried about what will replace the newspaper for getting the word out about what they do. One would like to think that the new Digital Age will give rise to new opportunities for arts journalism. I'm seeing lots of little start-ups. But so far, none of the big players have stepped in to make a bet on the arts...

March 17, 2009 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)

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