Coronavirus rocks media landscape into uncharted territory amid national crisis

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As the coronavirus outbreak has affected the normal way of life in the U.S., the media landscape in particular has entered uncharted territory that has benefited some outlets but significantly hurt others as well.

Millions of Americans are in self-quarantine and practicing social distancing, causing a huge boost in television ratings, including cable news networks that have been providing roughly 24-hour coronavirus coverage.

Several media outlets have been able to function despite many of them having cleared out their newsrooms. "The View" has been broadcasting without an audience. Late-night hosts have been taking their comedy to social media from the comfort of their homes.

However, the pandemic has completely disrupted the world of some particular types of media.

While small local newspapers have been struggling in the digital age in recent years, the coronavirus plague may mean the "total annihilation" of alternative newspapers as they've announced layoffs of staff across the country.

"This has, without a doubt, been the single worst week in the history of America’s alternative press. They’re facing a double blow: Not only have their main advertising sources dried up, so have their main points of distribution," Nieman Journalism Lab's Joshua Benton said.

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However, a media group is hoping for the country's leaders to stress the importance of news publishers amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern weighed in on what businesses are considered "nonessential" and "essential" as local and state governments continue to push social distancing by closing down establishments that could allow the virus to spread.

"Public officials across the country have begun ordering the shutdown of 'nonessential' businesses for periods of time. The goal of these orders is to appropriately react to our COVID-19 health crisis. However, these orders can also lead to some confusion about their application to news publishing operations," Chavern said on Monday.

Chavern stressed the importance of local news outlets having an "absolutely essential function" in reporting important information to the general public during the nationwide panic.

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"It should be readily apparent that local news publishers are carrying out an absolutely essential function in conveying accurate, reliable and critical information to the public at a time of great need," Chavern wrote. "Many consumers are using our digital products, which can often be created and accessed remotely. However, there are still a large number of readers who rely exclusively on the production of our print products."

He continued, "Therefore, when issuing these orders, we would urge public officials to clarify that all news publishing operations are 'essential,' akin to grocery, pharmacy and other businesses critical to the public’s welfare."

The world of sports has also been impacted, leaving sports networks like ESPN and Fox Sports 1 scrambling for content- but unlike alt-weekly newspapers, there is at least light at the end of the tunnel in the sports industry.

For now- the NBA, NHL, MLS and Major League Baseball all suspended their seasons, the NCAA canceled all upcoming events, including the beloved March Madness, and everything from the Boston Marathon to the PGA Tour have been postponed. The XFL canceled the remainder of its regular season and tennis has been put on hold.

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It’s an anxiety-inducing scenario for any fan that relies on live sports for entertainment – and nobody seems to know what sports networks will do or how long they will be void of live sports.

ESPN has a large library of popular “30 for 30” documentaries it can air as needed to fill time, while Fox Sports owns evergreen content such as classic games, boxing matches and its own library of documentaries.

“Sports fans are going to be looking for other ways to get distracted from the news… it’s going to be a mix of news and day-to-day updates about status checks and what players and teams are up to with some storytelling and nostalgia plays mixed in,” a longtime industry veteran told Fox News.

The Hill media reporter and avid sports fan Joe Concha told Fox News that sports networks could mirror cable news for the foreseeable future and focus on panel discussions with a lot of opinion and debate.

“There's no scores or news outside of coronavirus impact to report on, so documentaries such as all ESPN ‘30-for-30’ and repeating classic sporting events will need to fill all of those hours,” Concha said of the time that isn’t filled with pundits shouting.

When then coronavirus pandemic is said and done, sports media should quickly recover but the fate of America’s alternative press is unclear.