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In the daily drumbeat of grim headlines about struggling news organizations that are trying to survive an economic crisis while covering a global pandemic, a bright spot can be found in at least one place, at least right now: local TV news.

"We are healthy," said Eric Lassberg, vice president and general manager at KXAN Austin News/NBC. "There have been no dramatic changes. The word from the top is, 'Let's just work hard and help our local communities. This is a time to pull the bootstraps and do great journalism.'"

In Austin, leaner staffs, increased viewership trends during disasters and an election-fueled infusion of cash in the first quarter have put local TV news in the unique position of being able to survive—at least for now—the financial realities that have forced more devastating moves in the Austin print community.


On Monday, reporters and other employees at the Austin American-Statesman were met with the news that they would need to take three unpaid weeks off over the next three months as their parent company, Gannett, tries to deal with shrinking advertising dollars.

Earlier this month, the Austin Chronicle went from four monthly print publications to two.

Newspapers had already been struggling for years before the health crisis. By contrast, local news stations—particularly in Austin, among the top 50 largest TV markets in the country—were enjoying an infusion of millions of dollars by local and national candidates vying for their parties' nomination in Texas' March primaries.

That is part of the reason they have not been as affected by the dramatic decline in advertising, said Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and professor of journalism at the University of Texas-Austin.

"It is clear that their situation is better than the newspapers,'" he said.

The stations are not immune because they are based on advertising, which—even as some industries like delivery services buy more air time—is still reliant on the health of businesses, most of which are closed in Austin right now.

And even the most striking increases in viewership that would in normal times translate to better pitches to advertising clients, aren't going to make much impact on a business that has no money to spend, no matter how high the investment return would be.

Lassberg said his station has seen the profile and messaging of their advertising clients shift: More services that are thriving, such as deliveries, and more messages of solidarity.

"You'll see that a lot of advertisers are just speaking and communicating to the community almost in a way where it's not necessarily an advertisement," Lassberg said.

But because this pandemic is unlike any other disaster or crisis we have seen in this lifetime, Alves said, the future of even TV is uncertain—even after the crisis ends.

"Of course, this crisis is different," he said. "And the world will never be the same in terms of media."

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Ingredients:

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The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.