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San Diego Media Outlets Shutting Down Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

Images of San Diego Magazine covers hang on the wall in this undated photo.

Credit: San Diego Magazine

Above: Images of San Diego Magazine covers hang on the wall in this undated photo.

Several San Diego media outlets are shutting down or cutting back in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

San Diego Magazine, which has published in San Diego for 72 years, is ceasing publication temporarily and has laid off all but three of its 37 employees, said Jim Fitzpatrick, the publisher.

San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Magazine has also stopped publishing and laid off its staff, according to a former employee. The San Diego Reader posted a message on its website asking for donations to help it weather this period. And San Diego CityBeat has ceased publishing "until the economy improves," according to an email from its editor that was forwarded to KPBS.

At San Diego Magazine, publisher Fitzpatrick said the shutdown is directly related to the coronavirus outbreak, and that he hopes when "stay-at-home" orders are lifted statewide, the magazine can resume publication.

"It came down to there was nothing for our staff to do," he said. "We write about people, places and things to do in San Diego and they're all closed … when businesses come back, we’ll be back."

Fitzpatrick said when the magazine starts publishing again, he will rehire his entire staff. For now, the remaining three staffers are working on a custom publication. Food critic Troy Johnson will also continue writing for the magazine’s website about how the restaurant industry is handling closures.

When economic downturns hit, it's especially challenging for media outlets, particularly those that rely on advertising, said Dean Nelson, the director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University.

"Why would anyone advertise right now?" Nelson said. "That means a news outlet is basing all of its income on subscriptions, and that's just a small percentage of the normal income."

He said The San Diego Union-Tribune has had far fewer pages recently, but the fact that it's owned by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong could help cushion the blow. He applauded the newspaper’s decision to lift its paywall for breaking news, something many other newspapers have also done.

"It's realizing that providing news is a public service during a crisis time," Nelson said. "It might give them a financial hit, [but] a way of generating interest from readers. Besides that, it's the right thing to do."

Nelson added that despite the cutbacks and layoffs, the current time is especially important for journalism.

"We all see that at a time like this, journalism matters to society," he said. "If you don't have good aggressive journalists out there telling us what's going on, then we're left to any crackpot who says this is the way to get over the virus. This is the time when journalism shines its brightest. What's different about this is now it also has the fewest resources to do that shining, and that's kind of scary."

Listen to this story by Claire Trageser.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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