The number of journalists working for newspapers in Ohio has plummeted, a new report by think tank Policy Matters Ohio shows.
In 2012, according to Policy Matters' research, there were 2,870 newsroom reporters working in the Buckeye State. By 2018, there were just 1,640.
That's detrimental to the civic health of the towns and cities scattered across Ohio, as well as the state's political health as a whole, the think tank says.
"We need skilled professionals working as journalists to keep Ohioans informed about our communities,” Policy Matters Communications Director Caitlin Johnson said in a statement. “Fewer and fewer people are doing these essential jobs. And they aren’t making much money despite often being expected to have a college degree and own a car.”
It isn't just journalists who have gotten the axe. Taken together, jobs related in some way to news publications — distribution, circulation and administrative roles as well as journalistic careers — have fallen 58 percent in Ohio since 2004.
Pay is also flagging. The average salary of a journalist in Ohio is $32,000 a year — $5,000 below the median salary in the state, according to Policy Matters.
Much of the reduction has to do with the shrinking business landscape for news. Between 2004 and 2018, the state lost 32 percent of its newspapers. Most recently, the Youngstown Vindicator announced it would close at the end of August, leaving it the city the largest in the U.S. without a daily paper.
Consolidation has also played a role. In the past five years, 30 percent of Ohio's remaining papers changed ownership, and now most of Ohio's papers are owned by one of five large companies. And now one of those companies, GateHouse (which owns 50 Ohio papers) wants to buy Gannett (which owns 11 Ohio papers, including The Cincinnati Enquirer).
“Local news benefits everyone and shouldn’t be left to the whims of market forces,” Policy Matters Research Director Zach Schiller said in a statement. “Ohio’s newspaper crisis demands public policy intervention. Lawmakers should act before it’s too late.”
Among the policy measures the think tank suggests: more state support for public media, federal policy that makes it easier for news organizations to become nonprofits, and a tax on large organizations like Google and Facebook that make ad revenue from shared news content to create an endowment to support local journalism across the country.