Joey Young of Kansas Publishing Ventures runs community newspapers with 30 employees in south-central Kansas. Sales declined almost immediately by 40% when the state shut down in the early months of the pandemic. At the same time, online traffic spiked so much that his team had to add more bandwidth to support the flood of readers.
Young and his staff consolidated some of their papers into one giant weekly, Harvey County Now, to save money and found readers liked it. Paycheck Protection funding and increased subscriptions also helped, but the stress of the pandemic took a toll on Young.
“You know, when you’re trying to build a company, it feels like your personal life is the company,” he said. “So, I’m just super stressed out about the company all the time.”
He believes locally-owned newspapers will return to normal but thinks hedge-fund-owned newspapers will never get back what they lost in pandemic cutbacks.
Listen to the oral history interview:
See an issue of Newton Now from March 19, 2020.
See an issue of Harvey County Now from April 30, 2020.
See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.