Tiny Iowa newspaper's Pulitzer win is a reminder: There are fewer family-owned papers than ever before

The Pulitzer Prize win for the tiny Storm Lake (Iowa) Times was a great underdog story (and our most-read article ever). But pull the lens back, as The Wall Street Journal's Lukas Alpert did today, and it's also a story of something that's becoming quite rare — a family-owned newspaper.

Alpert reports some sobering figures from Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a merger and acquisition firm:

  • In the first quarter of 2017, five of the six newspaper sales were from a family-owned newspaper to a media group.
  • Only 15 percent of daily newspapers in the U.S. are independently owned.
  • In 1975, that number was 75 percent, down from 90 percent in 1900.
  • Only 10 cities are left with competing newspapers.

It's not all bad news, though.

At the same time, there has been a small but notable uptick over the past several years in the percentage of overall circulation that is in independent hands. But that is largely attributable to the acquisition of some larger urban market titles — such as The Boston Globe, the Washington Post and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune—by individual tycoons.

Poynter's Jim Warren asked Art Cullen, who won the Pulitzer for Edtorial Writing for the Storm Lake Times, if he had any advice for other journalists working at small, local newspapers. Cullen did:

"Journalism really matters," he said. "And good journalism is being done all across the country."


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