March 2, 2021

Emily Bradbury has spent the past two years as executive director of the Kansas Press Association, which has 175 member newspapers and a handful of online-only outlets.

In the early days of the pandemic, three free newspapers were hit hard and closed, she said. Yet readership of newspaper websites overall spiked 54%, prompting weekly newspapers to focus more on their digital presence.

Bradbury oversaw drastically different situations across the state as some newspapers saw no impact in the early days of the pandemic while others had the bottom drop out of advertising almost immediately. Bradbury believes there needs to be a more centralized effort working on new business models for journalism while keeping in mind there can’t be a single one-size-fits-all approach.

“We just have to understand as a society that we lose a lot more when we lose a publication than what is on the surface,” she said. “And I think that readers have to know about that … We have to be better at telling our story.”

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the transcript.

See the Kansas Press Association’s monthly publication from March 25, 2020.

See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.

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Teri Finneman is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas. She previously worked as a print journalist and multimedia correspondent covering state…
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