We will miss the RFT

The loss of the Riverfront Times is a loss not only for the St. Louis journalism community, but the entire region. Our society functions best with a diversity of voices telling the stories of the human experience, and the RFT was a major voice in that chorus in St. Louis.

The journalists who worked there now join an alarming number of journalists laid off, bought out or otherwise sent packing in an industry with fewer jobs and even fewer employers. Since 2005, the U.S. has lost nearly 2,900 newspapers and 43,000 journalists – that’s 2.5 newspapers closing per week as of 2023, according to the Medill School of Journalism. That has implications beyond career catastrophes for journalists: there are now 204 counties in the U.S. without a single news outlet, including four in southern Illinois, and 1,562 counties nationwide who must rely on only one local news outlet.

This is bad for journalism, bad for the community, and bad for democracy. The public needs to understand the crisis facing journalism and support their local news outlets. There is no news organization that is going to write every story you want the way that you want it. But sitting back and complaining about paywalls and subscription rates will eventually lead to a silence across the news wires in your community. And research has shown that fewer journalists covering local government leads to higher inefficiencies and fraud, higher taxes, and decreased voter turnout.

I am heartbroken both for the loss of the RFT and for our colleagues who are now looking for work. The Society of Professional Journalists has a number of resources to help journalists find new positions (spj.org/together.asp) and the St. Louis Pro chapter hopes to help them in any way we can.

— St. Louis SPJ President Elizabeth Donald