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Inside the Decline of American Newspapers

As the print news business has struggled in the past decade, photographers have been acutely aware of the challenges newspapers face. They’ve seen layoffs and reductions in staff photographer positions, especially for smaller papers, while other newspapers have shuttered, leaving the communities they’ve served without a critical source of information.

While many photojournalists have felt the effects of this struggle, surprisingly few have dealt with it as photographers often deal with hardship: by turning their lens on it.

This is part of the reason why artist Will Steacy‘s five-year project photographing The Philadelphia Inquirer is so compelling. Steacy’s pictures are proof of the loss that has affected so many photographers and other journalists.

Steacy comes from a family of five generations of newspapermen, and his father worked at The Inquirer for 29 years before being laid off in 2011.

Steacy’s personal connection to the newspaper business shines through in his statement about the work. He writes: “Having shed 30 percent of its workforce in the past decade, newspapers are America’s fastest shrinking industry, yet more than half of American adults know little to nothing about the financial struggles that have eviscerated newsrooms. At a time when a third of U.S. adults get their news on Facebook, newspapers’ transition into a digital era has been mired in a dire hunt for sustainable online advertising revenue as papers nationally have lost $25 billion in advertising revenue over the past ten years and in 2012 newspapers lost $16 in print ad revenue for every $1 made in digital ad revenue.

“The newspaper for centuries has served as a cornerstone of American society holding our country’s institutions, CEOs, politicians and big businesses accountable for their actions, upholding the values, laws and morals that our democracy was founded upon. When we lose reporters, editors, newsbeats and sections of papers, we lose coverage, information, and a connection to our cities and our society, and, in the end, we lose ourselves. Without the human investment to provide news content it becomes a zero sum game on the information highway to nowhere. The fibers of the paper and the clicks of the mouse are worthless unless the words they are presented on have value. The newspaper is much more than a business, it is a civic trust.” – Conor Risch

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