Finding resiliency in local, community news gathering

MU researchers recently studied the effects of COVID-19 on local newspapers, revealing an industry wide tension among journalists.

May 21, 2021


Brian Consiglio: Community newspapers are often the primary source of accurate and local news for the public. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced newspapers around the country to reevaluate the way they’ve been doing business for decades.

So, in a recent study, MU Professor Ryan Thomas and other scholars studied the impact of COVID-19 on community newspapers. He says his research suggests Journalists should be their own advocates, instead of solely relying on credibility.

Thomas: “What's really interesting about that is that there's this sort of habit that I think journalists and reporters have throughout the history of not being the story, and the idea that if you just put simply put out a good product, people will gravitate towards it. But I think more and more journalists are recognizing that in an era not only of declining subscriptions and ad revenue, but in an era of fake news, that they really need to be going out there to argue the case for journalism, and why the product that they put out is worthy of public support.”

Consiglio: The researchers analyzed six weeks of news articles and columns in community papers that described COVID-19’s impact on journalism. Thomas also said that another issue community papers are dealing with is access.

Thomas: “The other significant finding, I think, is this real debate that's going on in journalistic circles, about whether to not have the COVID information behind a paywall. And what that really illustrates, we argue, is this sort of underlying tension between journalism as a public good that informs communities and journalism as a commodity that has to sort of fight for its existence on the marketplace.”

Consiglio: For more on this research visit,

I’m Brian Consiglio with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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