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  • Sinclair defends Trump’s racist “shithole” remarks as mere “salty language” 

    And local news viewers across the country will now be subjected to it

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Nearly one week after President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations as “shithole countries” in a racist diatribe, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s #1 Trump shill Boris Epshteyn would like local news audiences to know that it doesn’t matter.

    In a January 17 Bottom Line with Boris “must-run” segment for Sinclair, former Trump aide and Sinclair chief political analyst Epshteyn added his voice to the chorus of desperate right-wing media figures defending Trump’s latest racist moment. He argued that the entire “dust up” about Trump saying yet another clearly racist thing was about a president using “salty language” and saying “a curse word to a group of adults in private.” Epshteyn’s segment does not mention what the comments were in reference to, or name any of the countries targeted -- he doesn't even use the words "immigrant" or "immigration."

    He instead reserved his criticism for media outlets that reported on the comments and quoted the president saying "shithole," saying, "The problem here is that these networks are played in public places throughout our country. They are in airports, doctors’ offices, and restaurants. The screens are seen by adults and children alike. The allegation is that President Trump said the word once in a private meeting. How is it ok to repeat it and splash it on the screen hundreds of times? I believe that makes no sense." During the segment, the word "shithole" is even blurred out in a screengrab of CNN's coverage. 

    Seriously, just watch this.

    This embarrassing segment will now be forcibly aired, often spliced with local news coverage, on more than 100 Sinclair-owned or operated news stations throughout the country as part of the media giant’s infamous “must-run” line-up.

    Sinclair is known for its history of injecting right-wing spin into local newscasts, most notably with these “must-run” segments. The segments have included blatant (and sometimes embarrassing) pro-Trump propaganda missives from Epshteyn since last spring. In the last six months, Epshteyn has used his Bottom Line With Boris segments to attack members of the press for being too mean to the president, praise seemingly every move Trump makes, and offer jaw-droppingly ill-timed defenses of Trump and his staff members. Most recently, he developed an entire segment arguing that Trump’s horrifying “nuclear button” tweet threatening nuclear war with North Korea was a strong foreign policy move.

    Thanks to the Trump Federal Communications Commission, pro-Trump propaganda like this could soon air on even more local TV news stations and in major cities across the country, reaching 72% of U.S. television households.

  • Trump's "shithole" comments are racist. Everyone needs to just say that.

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump did something racist again. At what point will some media outlets just say that? 

    On January 11, The Washington Post first reported that in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration, when discussing "protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal," Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly added that he’d rather have more immigrants from countries like Norway.

    That is a racist statement, and Trump said that because he is racist.

    It’s far from the first overtly racist comment Trump has made in his life or even in his presidency.

    In fact, an undeniable shadow of racial animus hangs over Trump's every action, whether it’s playing footsie with white nationalists or denying black people housing access, picking public fights with black athletes and pundits and public figures or questioning President Barack Obama’s place of birth, calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists or calling for the death penalty for a group of innocent black and Latino teenagers.

    News outlets may hesitate to ascribe racist motivations to an individual, even if so many of their readers can see it clearly. That’s a bit understandable -- but describing concrete, individual actions and statements doesn’t require the same sort of divination.

    Yet some print outlets seem, still, to only feel comfortable calling Trump’s actions racist in the opinion section, or including words or sentiments from third parties that are more comfortable calling racist things racist (like many of their colleagues on mainstream cable news, finally) .

    At this point, major national papers are left to perform bizarre word acrobatics to avoid just saying it themselves. The reporting on Trump’s “shithole” remarks is the latest example.

    • In its report about the "shithole" remark itself, the Post wrote that Trump used “racially incendiary language” and described him as having a “long-standing tendency to make racially charged remarks.”
    • The New York Times wrote that Trump used “disparaging words” and “vulgar language” about the countries in “the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants.”
    • USA Today said Trump used “a crude description” because he “reportedly grew frustrated.”
    • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump made “vulgar comments” during a “back-and-forth” on immigration.

    What more horrifying things does Trump need to do or say that would actually be labeled racist in a report? Judging from what’s been sugar-coated so far, I hope we never know the answer.

  • Sinclair airs anti-survivor “must-run” segment on local news stations weeks after being named in a sexual harassment lawsuit

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Conservative local media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group is mandating local news stations air a “must-run” commentary segment touting “due process” at the expense of accusers in the #MeToo movement just weeks after being named in a lawsuit alleging workplace sexual harassment at its digital media entity Circa.

    A January 4 national “must-run” segment from former Sinclair executive Mark Hyman argued that while “sexual misconduct in any form, at any time, anywhere is never acceptable,” some protections for people who publicly report sexual misconduct are not appropriate. Hyman specifically begged, “Let’s not automatically grant anonymity to every accuser,” warning that doing so "could lead to false allegations used as weapons for any number of reasons." Hyman failed to note the very real dangers people face when they come forward.

    On December 20, 2017, The Baltimore Sun reported that Sinclair and its digital media arm, Circa, had been named in a lawsuit alleging workplace sexual harassment experienced by three former Circa employees. The lawsuit was not mentioned in Hyman’s website post about the “must-run” segment.

    Sinclair is known for its history of injecting right-wing spin into local newscasts, most notably with these nationally produced “must-run” commentary segments. The segments, which all Sinclair-owned and operated news stations are required to air, have included rants about “politically correct” culture from Hyman for some time, as well as blatant (and sometimes embarrassing) pro-Trump propaganda missives from former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments seemingly focused on whatever Muslims do.

    Sinclair’s pending acquisition of Tribune Media, if approved by Trump’s Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, would allow it to force-feed conservative commentary segments like these to more local news audiences in battleground states and major cities ahead of the likely re-election campaign of reported serial sexual harasser President Donald Trump in 2020.

  • Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn praises Trump “nuclear button” tweet as strong, purposeful foreign policy 

    Epshteyn’s praise will be force-fed to local news viewers across the country

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    President Donald Trump’s recent unhinged, decidedly phallic tweet threatening nuclear war with North Korea horrified many -- but not former Trump aide and Sinclair Broadcast Group’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn. Conveniently, Epshteyn has been given an ever-growing platform to share his views about his former boss with unsuspecting audiences nationwide during local news broadcasts.

    In a new Bottom Line with Boris segment posted on January 5, Epshteyn argues that Trump’s tweet comparing the size and power of his “nuclear button” to that of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was an example of Trump fulfilling his promise of "standing up to international bullies." He concluded, "Strength is the policy that will be effective with these rogue actors."

    Sinclair is known for its history of injecting right-wing spin into local newscasts, most notably with its nationally produced “must-run” commentary segments. The segments, which all Sinclair-owned and operated news stations are required to air, have included blatant (and sometimes embarrassing) pro-Trump propaganda missives from Epshteyn since last spring. In the last six months, Epshteyn has used his Bottom Line With Boris segments to attack members of the press for being too mean to the president, praise seemingly every move Trump makes, and offer jaw-droppingly ill-timed defenses of Trump and his staff members.

  • Angelo Carusone: Advertisers see "aligning their brand with Hannity as actually the functional equivalent of giving a political donation to Trump"

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explains why Sean Hannity is toxic for advertisers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the January 4 edition of SiriusXM The Dean Obeidallah Show:

    DEAN OBEIDALLAH (HOST): You are an expert on Sean Hannity so maybe you can give some insight on do you think it’s true. There was a part of the book, it’s actually in “The Hollywood Reporter” article today that Michael Wolff wrote but it’s an excerpt from the book and it said that they wanted to give a big interview, Trump wanted to give a big interview and it said, I’m reading, “The interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who White House insiders happily explained was willing to supply the questions beforehand.” What do you think? And Sean Hannity of course has denied this. What do you think?

    ANGELO CARUSONE: I would not be the least bit surprised by this. Nobody has interviewed Donald Trump more than Sean Hannity has and even if it’s not the written questions, if it’s the idea that he’s just going to give him a little bit of a heads up about it of what the big bucket of things that he’s going to talk about it, it just wouldn’t surprise me. They speak regularly. And here’s the other thing that doesn’t surprise me and Sean Spicer confirmed this much at least that back in April when they were worried about, late March, or back in late March, early April when they were starting to think about the potential for the Comey stuff to blow up they were beginning to strategize alternative stories that they could promote that would serve as both a distraction and to deflect from the attention and it’s not a coincidence that the same time that the Comey letters dropped was when Sean Hannity started pushing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

    […]

    Let’s not forget that Sean Hannity is continuing to lose advertisers all the time, every day and the thing that I would point out there is when I talk to them as much as they are concerned about distancing their brands from his extremism or some of the nasty stuff he has said, one of the other factors that’s in play is that the tighter his relationship with Donald Trump and the more people see that in terms of the corporate decision maker side they actual begin to see supporting Hannity or aligning their brand with Hannity as actually the functional equivalent of giving a political donation to Trump.

    Previously:

    Hannity denies that he gave Trump questions in advance. Here are the questions he asked.

    Jake Tapper: "It's remarkable" Trump is trying to block the publication of a book because it "hurt his feelings"

    The long, public humiliation of Steve Bannon

  • The 10 most ridiculous things media figures said about climate change and the environment in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    1. Breitbart’s James Delingpole claimed 400 new scientific papers show global warming is a myth.

    Numerous studies have found near-unanimous scientific agreement on human-caused climate change, with perhaps the most well-known study on the matter finding that 97 percent of scientific papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agree that humans are behind it. And this year, a review of the 3 percent of papers that deny climate change found that they were all flawed. Nonetheless, Breitbart writer Delingpole claimed that 400 scientific papers published this year demonstrated that climate change is a “myth,” basing his article on a post on the denialist blog No Tricks Zone.The fact-checking website Snopes roundly debunked Delingpole’s article, giving it a “False” verdict after speaking with authors of some of the cited papers who said their work was grossly misinterpreted or misrepresented.

    2. The Daily Mail claimed government researchers “duped” world leaders with "manipulated global warming data."

    Daily Mail reporter David Rose alleged that climate scientists "rushed" to publish an "exaggerated" paper in an attempt to convince leaders to support the Paris agreement and spend billions to fight climate change. Rose, who has written his fair share of climate misinformation for the Mail, based his story on an “exclusive interview” with and a blog post by retired U.S. government scientist John Bates. The error-ridden article quickly made its way around right-wing media in outlets such as The Daily Caller, National Review, and Breitbart, and was even promoted by GOP members of the House science committee, including its chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The story’s claims also received “at least 752,300 shares, likes, comments, or other interactions on social media,” according to a Buzzfeed analysis. But the claims in the article were widely discredited by climate scientists, including Bates’ former colleagues and even Bates himself. The errors in the Mail’s article were so significant that the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), an independent media regulator in the U.K., issued a ruling that "the newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article ... and had then failed to correct ... significantly misleading statements." The Daily Mail was required to publish IPSO's reprimand.

    3. Radio host Rush Limbaugh said he was "leery" of hurricane forecasts because they advance a "climate change agenda."

    As Hurricane Irma barrelled toward Florida, Limbaugh spun conspiracy theories and told his listeners that hurricane warnings are part of a scheme to benefit retailers, the media, and people like Al Gore who want to "advance this climate change agenda." Notably, Limbaugh didn’t have any skepticism about the danger Irma posed when it came to his own well-being, as he fled from his Florida home to Los Angeles before Irma made landfall. It's not the first time Limbaugh has spouted irresponsible conspiracy theories about hurricane forecasts. He was criticized last year for doing the same thing during Hurricane Matthew, earning himself a spot on the 2016 edition of this list.

    4. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argued that because political operatives were wrong in predicting Hillary Clinton would win the election, people should be skeptical of climate science.

    After Trump’s election, The New York Times launched an ad campaign billing itself as the antidote to Trumpian “alternative facts.” Shortly after that campaign, though, the Times hired Stephens as a columnist -- a serial misinformer who had called climate change a “sick-souled religion” during his time at The Wall Street Journal. In his inaugural column for the Times, Stephens encouraged skepticism of climate scientists and compared those who advocate climate action to Cold War-era authoritarians. Stephens’ column was short on actual facts and science; the one time he cited a scientific report, he got it wrong. The Times added a correction to the column, but numerous scientists pointed out that the correction wasn’t sufficient, and a number of scientists canceled their subscriptions over Stephens’ hiring, his problematic column, and the Times public editor’s dismissive defense of Stephens’ column. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later cited Stephens' column to defend the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

    5. Conservative media commentator Stephen Moore claimed that Trump created tens of thousands of coal jobs in the first few months of his presidency.

    Experts and journalists have repeatedly noted that President Donald Trump's campaign promise to bring back coal jobs is an empty one, since the decades-long decline in coal mining jobs has been driven much more by economic forces, such as increased automation and competition from natural gas and renewables, than by government regulations. But that didn’t stop Moore, a frequent Fox and CNN commentator and former Trump economic advisor, from proclaiming in op-eds in The Washington Times and Breitbart that Trump had already made good on his promise after just a few months in office. Moore cited jobs reports from March and April to claim that Trump had added tens of thousands of mining jobs, thereby restoring the coal industry. But Moore grossly misrepresented the data he cited, which actually included jobs in a number of sectors like oil and gas. Had Moore bothered to look at the actual coal mining jobs category, he would have seen that it had only grown by approximately 200 jobs through April, barely moving since Election Day.

    6. Radio host Hugh Hewitt recommended appointing Rush Limbaugh to a national commission to study climate change.

    In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Hewitt proposed creating a “national commission led by men and women of impeccable credentials” to determine whether and how the U.S. should address climate change, arguing that the country needs a group of “[d]iverse, smart non-scientists who are going to listen to the scientists -- all of them -- and report back on what ought to be done.” But Hewitt’s proposal instantly lost all credibility when he suggested including Rush Limbaugh as one of the commission members. Limbaugh has repeatedly called climate change a hoax, promoted dangerous climate-related conspiracy theories, misrepresented research in an attempt to dispute that global warming is happening, and even criticized a TV show for portraying climate change as a reality.

    7. Fox hosts attacked a journalist and called him "stupid" for asking a Trump official about the links between hurricanes and climate change.

    2017 was a record year for hurricanes, as Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc along their respective paths. A number of climate scientists have explained how climate change exacerbates some of the worst impacts of hurricanes. While CNN and MSNBC frequently aired segments discussing the link between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, Fox News hosts almost exclusively covered the climate change-hurricane link by criticizing others who raised the issue. The September 11 episode of Fox's The Five, for example, featured a lengthy discussion in which hosts criticized CNN's Jim Acosta for asking Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert whether there's a link between climate change and powerful hurricanes. The hosts said that Acosta was “anti-science” and looked “stupid” and “dumb,” and they called his question was "politically opportunistic." Fox's Jesse Watters said concern about climate change stems from liberal “guilt” and a desire to control people’s lives. Likewise, on the radio show Breitbart News Daily, host Alex Marlow pushed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to deny the link between climate change and hurricanes, which Pruitt did, stating, “For opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause-and-effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced."

    8. Rush Limbaugh argued that the historic BP oil spill caused no environmental damage.

    Limbaugh cited an article in the right-wing Daily Caller headlined “Bacteria Are Eating Most Of The 2010 BP Oil Spill” and concluded, “The BP spill didn’t do any environmental [damage].” The Deepwater Horizon spill, which leaked oil for 87 days, was the largest accidental spill of oil into marine waters in world history. Researchers have documented a wide array of negative environmental impacts from the disaster. For example, a 2016 study found that the BP spill may have caused irreversible damage to one of the Gulf shore’s most important ecosystems. The spill is believed to have killed tens of thousands animals in 2010, and for years afterward, dolphins and other animals in the area continued to die at higher-than-normal rates.

    9. Fox News’ Jesse Watters claimed, “No one is dying from climate change.”

    During a discussion about Al Gore’s warnings on climate change, Watters, a co-host of Fox News’ The Five, declared, “People are dying from terrorism. No one is dying from climate change.” Rush Limbaugh also made the same assertion this year. But an independent report commissioned by 20 governments in 2012 concluded that climate change already kills more people than terrorism, with an estimated 400,000 deaths linked to climate change each year.

    10. Radio host Alex Jones said it was "suspicious" that Hurricane Irma came along shortly before the release of a climate disaster movie.

    Jones briefly speculated about the possibility that Hurricane Irma was “geoengineered” or created by humans before stating, “Meanwhile, though, right on time with these superstorms, we have the new film Geoengineering (sic) 2017, coming soon on October 20. Oh, just a little bit more than a month or so after Irma is set to hit. Isn’t that just perfect timing? Like all these race war films they’ve been putting out. This is starting to get suspicious. Here it is, Geostorm.” The action movie Geostorm featured satellites that controlled the global climate. Jones' speculation about the film is just one of the countless conspiracy theories he has promoted over the years.

  • 2017 was a disastrous year for local news

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Local news matters now more than ever -- and it’s also in unprecedented peril.

    In the midst of an unparalleled presidential war on the press, people still trust and rely on their local news. This year we’ve watched local journalists contribute invaluable on-the-ground reporting that helps communities and saves lives -- whether it’s about natural disasters, a mass shooting, or a public health crisis -- while adding valuable local context to national stories.

    Although the decline of local news certainly did not begin this year, 2017 has dealt the industry some particularly heavy blows. And right-wing corporations are already swooping in to fill the voids that dying local outlets leave behind. As conservative media expert Will Sommer theorized recently, 2018 may become “the year that every media market in the country gets its own Fox News-style voice at the local level.”

    If that terrifying prospect comes to pass, it will be directly because of the damage done in 2017.

    Sinclair quietly pushed pro-Trump propaganda on local news stations across the country -- and it’s only going to get worse

    Perhaps the biggest development in local news this year was conservative media giant Sinclair Broadcast Group's nefarious local broadcast news takeover. Sinclair is known for a few unusual tactics: acquiring and consolidating local news stations and severely scaling back resources, deceptively blending paid advertising and straight news reporting (it was just fined $13.3 million for doing this again), and producing “must-run” segments that its news stations across the country are required to air.

    Sinclair has long been a right-wing news entity, infusing its political slant into news programming for years. But 2017 was arguably the year Sinclair became a household name as it expanded its right-wing influence on local news in unprecedented ways that could no longer flourish under the radar. It hired Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide, as its “chief political analyst” in April, then ratcheted up Epshteyn’s influence even further in July. Epshteyn’s must-run “Bottom Line with Boris” segments now air nine times per week on Sinclair’s local news stations -- without substantive introduction or context to signal to viewers exactly what they’re watching: a nationally produced 90-second propaganda segment by an ex-Trump staffer about why people are being too mean to his former boss or why Trump’s latest terrible decision is actually good.

    What’s worse: Trump’s Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping Sinclair expand. The FCC has moved to end several regulations, making it easier for Sinclair to grow even bigger. Soon, it will likely be injecting right-wing spin into more local media markets in battleground states and major cities ahead of the 2018 and 2020 national elections.

    Billionaire Joe Ricketts bought, then shut down, a conglomerate of hyper-local digital outlets

    In March, banking billionaire and GOP megadonor Joe Rickettshyperlocal news company DNAInfo purchased the New York City-focused digital outlet Gothamist and its sister sites in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The acquisition followed a round of layoffs at DNAInfo. Shortly after the acquisition, it was reported that Gothamist had deleted from its website five posts that were critical of Ricketts.

    By November, Ricketts unceremoniously announced that he had elected to shut down all of the sites. At least some staff reportedly learned of the decision along with the public when they refreshed their own site and instead found an open letter from Ricketts -- and all of their work and past clips erased. (Following media uproar, the past content would later reappear as an “archive.”) The decision put 115 people out of work, with three months of paid “administrative leave” and four weeks of severance.  

    A week prior to Ricketts’ unilateral decision to shutter the sites, the New York staff at DNAInfo and Gothamist formally voted to unionize. Ricketts had refused to voluntarily recognize the union prior to the formal vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Ricketts himself and other executives at DNAInfo had fearmongered that unionization could be “the final straw that caused the business to be closed.” He did not mention unionization in his November letter, but his previous pattern of union-busting tactics is unignorable.

    Local news on the West Coast is rapidly disintegrating, and it hurts Spanish-speaking communities most

    West Coast local media was significantly gutted this year, especially in Los Angeles and Seattle, marginalizing Spanish-speaking communities.

    California has lost LAist and SFist to billionaire Joe Ricketts’ spitefulness and watched as Sinclair took over local media markets, including purchasing several Univision affiliates in northern California. In addition to other Sinclair news stations in Bakersfield and Fresno, CA, the broadcasting company also already owns and operates news stations including additional Univision affiliates in Seattle and Portland. The lack of local news diversity for Spanish-speakers is even more stark considering 31.1 percent of Latinx households and 47.7 percent of Spanish-speaking Latinx households have only free broadcast (not cable or satellite) TV for their news.

    Sinclair will soon enter the Los Angeles media market as well, with its planned acquisition of KTLA in 2018. Meanwhile, local alternative weekly magazine L.A. Weekly was purchased by a mysterious new shell group and nearly the entirety of its editorial staff was immediately fired without explanation. Days later, the new owners were revealed to be a group of  investors in a post on L.A. Weekly’s site -- but no explanation was given for the mass firing. The new owners, known as Semanal Media, selected “free-market enthusiast” and local opinion editor Brian Calle as the alt-weekly’s new chief executive. Calle and investor David Welch wrote a letter to the publication’s readership weeks after the initial firing spree, acknowledging they’d made missteps in their takeover and appointing one of the few remaining staffers as interim editor. Days later, that staffer was suspended following reporting on his previous offensive tweets. Meanwhile, former LAist Editor-in-Chief Julia Wick noted recently that L.A. Weekly now appears to be re-publishing former staffers’ older work and changing the dates to make it seem like new content. 

    And in Seattle, Sinclair already has a foothold with its ownership of local news station KOMO and KUNS, the local affiliate for Univision. Local staff are already fighting back, but Sinclair is set to acquire even more Seattle stations in 2018. KOMO also cut its investigative team in the beginning of the year.

    The Seattle Times likewise kicked off the year by losing 23 newsroom staffers “in a combination of buyouts, layoffs, and voluntary departures” as the paper “faces falling ad revenue.” In February, journalists at a group of free Washington community weeklies operated by Issaquah Press published a full-page ad announcing they’d be “for hire” since the publications were shutting down.

    Local media newsrooms are downsizing and shutting down across the country, creating local “news deserts”

    The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) devoted an issue to exploring “a local news solution” this year, writing, “It won’t come as news to many of you that local journalism in our country is in dire shape. Pick your metric -- numbers of reporters, newspapers, readers -- and nearly all the trendlines veer downhill. It’s not a happy story.” As part of the project, CJR launched a new tool designed to track growing local “news deserts” across the country, writing “more and more communities are left with no daily local news outlet at all.” In another article, CJR’s David Uberti cited layoffs in McClatchy-operated newsrooms at The Sacramento Bee, The Fresno Bee, and the Tacoma, WA, News Tribune to demonstrate this growing phenomenon. Uberti also pointed to similarly quiet layoffs at Gannett publications in recent months, and later said his own reporting showed “at least 60 staffers, from 15 separate newsrooms” had been let go.

    One particular casualty in the desertification of local news has been the free alternative newsweekly. Not every alt-weekly decimation has been as dramatic as L.A. Weekly’s this December, but its shuttering along with several others this year prompted one writer to ask, “Can any alt-weeklies survive anymore?” Both Baltimore’s City Paper and the Knoxville Mercury in Tennessee closed their doors this year, and New York’s Village Voice and the Houston Press both ended their print editions. Others appear to be struggling as 2018 begins: Washington City Paper recently told employees it was cutting salaries by 40 percent as it seeks a new buyer.