A Kansas City-area weekly has chosen an unusual way to highlight the desperate struggle of local news organizations to stay afloat: running a blank front page.
“Readers who caught a glimpse of The Northeast News’ front page this week surely noticed it is empty,” writes Abby Hoover, managing editor of the periodical founded in 1932.
The intent was to give readers “a peek into the potential future of hyper-local news providers like The Northeast News,” she added.
The paper has been “free to the community for nearly 90 years, never charging subscription fees or putting up paywalls for any type of content,” Hoover explains.
But ad revenue dropped when small businesses found themselves scrambling to make ends meet during the pandemic, even as the paper was providing valuable local coverage of the crisis. Ads were “the first thing to go,” Hoover notes.
And now, Northeast News has “a 60-day lifespan if something doesn’t change.”
“We’ve been desperate before,” Hoover continues. “Many will remember in 2017 when we thought our doors would close.”
There were many phone calls in response to the blank page. Some readers thought it was a printing error, Hoover told the Kansas City Star.
The Star itself is familiar with the challenges facing publishing. Last year, it announced it “would leave the iconic glass building downtown and look for a new home to cut costs,” it writes.
Hoover concludes by asking readers to contribute a voluntary weekly subscription or make a one-time donation on the paper’s website. And she makes this case for publications like hers:
“The Northeast News holds an immeasurable value for the eight neighborhoods that are regularly underserved by larger metro news outlets. They may show up for a half-hour of coverage when there’s a homicide, a car chase or a fire, but that’s the extent of coverage this often-forgotten corner of Kansas City gets without The Northeast News.
“We’re here in the aftermath.”