Skip to content
Strange Maps

America’s news deserts are growing

Most counties in the U.S. have only one local newspaper, often one that publishes weekly instead of daily.
Do you live in a new desert?.
More than half of U.S. counties have just one newspaper, usually a weekly rather than a daily. (Credit: UNC CISLM)

Paper is to news what vinyl is to music: an outdated medium decimated by its digital replacement. Except that vinyl records have finally found their niche, and sales are up again. Newspapers haven’t yet worked out how to deal with all the advertising money that has fled online, and are still in freefall.

Compared to 20 years ago, there are now 3,000 fewer newspaper titles in the U.S. and 43,000 fewer newspaper journalists. Total newspaper circulation declined from more than 50 million in 2005 to just over 10 million in 2023.

The decline is still accelerating. In 2022, an average of two newspapers went out of business every week. In 2023, it was two and a half. As a result, so-called “news deserts” are growing across the U.S.

As this map shows, 225 counties (in red) across the country don’t have a local newspaper anymore. Additionally, 1,528 counties (in orange) — more than half the national total — have just one newspaper, more often than not a weekly rather than a daily publication. Across more than 200 counties, that lone publication is threatened with closure.

A map of the united states showing the number of news outlets.
Hover over the map (here) to see how many newspapers there are in that particular county, and how many newspaperless counties in that state. (Credit: UNC CISLM)

Does it matter whether your area has its own newspaper? Studies suggest it does: Active local journalism can be an antidote to fake news and political polarization, help hold local officials and businesses to account, and be instrumental in uncovering mismanagement and corruption.

Map by CISLM, the University of North Carolina’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media. Look here for the original location of the map on Tableau, and here for more CISLM maps about media in the U.S.

Strange Maps #1239

Got a strange map? Let me know at [email protected].

Follow Strange Maps on X and Facebook.


Up Next