Bracing for bad numbers

CBJ Editorial

“We are going to see economic data for the second quarter that’s worse than any data we’ve seen for the economy,” Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said last week.

Mr. Powell’s remarks followed the recent announcement by the Commerce Department that the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter at its fastest pace since the last recession. The annualized decline of 4.8% marked the biggest drop in economic output since the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline notably did not begin in earnest until March.

Recent passenger numbers from the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) reflect this decline locally. After three consecutive years of record-breaking passenger numbers, CID’s March passenger traffic was down 44.4% compared to the same month in 2019, showing the stark effects of diminished travel due to COVID-19.

The March numbers are a sharp reversal from the trend earlier this year. January traffic was up 20% and February was up 30%, as reported by the CBJ. Now, year-to-date passenger traffic is down 2.5%.

The airport’s passenger traffic is often a reliable leading indicator. Another indicator is cargo traffic, which has shown resilience as consumers made more purchases online from retailers like Nordstrom, which has a fulfillment center in Cedar Rapids.

In March, the amount of enplaned freight/cargo at CID increased 6.2% and year-to-date the increase is 23.4% over 2019. We’re fearful that it will be just a matter of time before the cargo traffic will also be drying up. We should prepare for more scary data.

The Press-Citizen’s slow destruction

We think that everyone should subscribe and read their community or region’s daily newspaper. The real value in these newspapers is the local news, insight and analysis that comes from local decision-making, and cannot be found in national media.

Unfortunately, the moves by the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s parent company Gannett over the past several years, and especially in recent weeks, have made subscribing to this important institution nearly irrelevant, because the local news operation is being reduced and decision-making is being relocated.

The CBJ recently reported that former Press-Citizen News Director Tory Brecht, who joined the paper in September 2018, said in a Facebook message posted last week that he was one of “many deep editorial/newsroom cuts across Gannett’s family of newspapers this week.”

It is also troubling that a media company based on journalism is not being forthright on these personnel changes and how it will impact the newspapers it operates. They could be the result of COVID-19 and the economy, or part of the nearly $300 million in cost savings targeted when Gannett was acquired last November by GateHouse Media.  We can’t tell, because our requests for comment to Gannett and Des Moines Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter were not returned by this deadline.

The cuts will leave the Press-Citizen with four reporters and one photographer. This is another painful step in the demise of another important daily newspaper. CBJ