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News outlets slash nearly 2,700 jobs this year — the highest number since 2020 — contributing to alarming news deserts

Analysis by Oliver Darcy, CNN

(CNN) — It’s a painful holiday season for news organizations.

In recent weeks, Condé Nast, The Washington Post, Yahoo News, Vox Media, and others have made painful cuts to their workforces. Meanwhile, the storied science and technology magazine Popular Science, ceased its print edition. And publications such as BusinessWeek and The Nation reduced production, becoming monthly magazines.

Taken together, media companies have shed thousands of staffers in recent weeks amid what should be the most wonderful time of the year. According to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, news outlets have cut nearly 2,700 jobs this year, the highest number of job cuts in the industry since 2020, the tumultuous year upended by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

While the U.S. economy continues to show its resilience, the unwelcome terminations come amid a particularly arduous business climate for publishers, which have continued to see steep drop offs in social media traffic — once the lifeblood of digital media publications — a relentlessly challenging advertising market and shifting audience habits.

The cuts also come at a poor time, given the state of the information environment and threats to U.S. democracy. At a time when anti-democratic candidates are looking to seize power in election contests from coast to coast, newsrooms are seeing their reach and staffing shrink, if they’re not going belly up entirely.

That lack of accountability means dishonest figures seeking higher office will face less scrutiny and leave the electorate less informed. Look no further than the now-expelled member of Congress, George Santos, for a glimpse into a future in which candidates are not thoroughly vetted by the press before being elected.

Margaret Sullivan, a columnist at The Guardian who previously wrote about media for The WaPo and The NYT, shared worry about the larger consequences the deeper cuts into the news business will have on the country. Sullivan said that it is not only “heartbreaking to see the loss of these jobs,” but stressed that they do broader “damage to society.”

“The loss of journalists contributes to the exponential growth of news deserts in large swaths of the nation — and that’s disastrous when misinformation is rampant,” Sullivan told me. “Democracy needs an informed electorate in order to function and that is tragically dwindling in many regions.”

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