Journal News Skips Local News on Sunday’s Front Page

Journal News Skips Local News on Sunday’s Front Page

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, has a devastating takedown on the Journal News that is well worth the read for residents of Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam.

Edmonds is writing about the Sunday, Nov. 29 print edition of The Journal News: Journal News Skips Local News on Sunday’s Front Page

Readers of The Journal News in the Westchester County suburbs of New York City were greeted last Sunday by an odd print edition in their driveway — its A-1 front page was devoid of local news.

His analysis might explain why our traffic here at Talk of the Sound has skyrocketed in 2020 while LoHud has collapsed. Readers are hungry for local news and hyper-local sites like ours are giving readers want they want.

Talk of the Sound is now averaging 80,000 unique visitors a month with traffic exceeding 1 million page views over the past six months — a staggering increase over the past five years.

Edmonds quotes a prescient retired Hearst executive from a 2017 Editor and Publisher article saying “Gannett has so depleted its local news operations, it is committing journalism malpractice”.

The Journal News covers three counties: Rockland (325,789 population in 2019), Westchester (967,506 population in 2019), and Putnam (98,320 population in 2019). A total population of just under 1.4 million.

Rockland County comprises five towns and 19 incorporated villages, with 16 unincorporated villages and hamlets. The five towns in order of the highest population are: Ramapo, Clarkstown, Orangetown, Haverstraw and Stony Point.

Putnam County comprises 6 towns and 3 incorporated villages. The six towns are Carmel, Kent, Patterson, Philipstown, Putnam Valley, and Southeast.

Westchester County comprises 48 municipalities with cities including White Plains, New Rochelle, Yonkers, and Rye.

September 2020 numbers for the Journal News from the Alliance for Audited Media lists 32,500 paid print-plus-digital subscribers and 24,582 daily subscribers. In 2015, Journal News had 73,848 Sunday subscribers and 55,611 daily subscribers.

That is a loss of 31,029 daily subscribers in 5 years, a decline of 56%.

Spread that across specific municipalities and their 2018 populations, it averages out to some pretty low numbers:

  • Carmel (34,305) — 609 daily subscribers
  • Ramapo (136,848) — 2,385 daily subscribers
  • New Rochelle (78,742) — 1,379 daily subscribers

“I see a jumping-off-the-cliff quality in Gannett’s embrace of the form,” wrote Edmonds. “Too much regional reeks of being a fig-leaf cover for a token effort at the local level — at least for remaining print readers.”

That embrace has only accelerated with the 2019 merger of Journal News parent-company Gannett and GateHouse.

It is not simply a lack of local content but any content.

Edmonds neglected to mention the decline in the number of pages in the print-version of the Journal News. There is literally little to buy.

The most pernicious aspect of the imminent demise of the Journal News, not stated in the piece by Edmonds, is the ever-increasing reliance by LoHud’d few remaining reporters on local governments, police departments and school districts to spoon-feed them stories over the telephone.

Unable to travel to cover city council meetings or first responder incidents, their journalists are mostly reduced to stenographers, unable to do original reporting and too afraid of biting the hand that feeds them to fulfill a traditional role of speaking truth to power.

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