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Penelope Abernathy

Penelope Muse Abernathy is the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism, and the author of the 2018 report, The Expanding News Desert, which looked at the crisis in local news. Her research focuses on the implications of the digital revolution for news organizations, the information needs of communities and the emergence of news deserts in the United States.

A former executive at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, Prof. Abernathy has worked more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and senior media business executive.

She is also co-author of The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur (Wiley Blackwell: 2018), which explores in-depth the emerging business models of successful media enterprises.

Her first book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability, (UNC Press: 2014) is based on five years of research, involving more than two dozen newspapers around the country. This research (available at became the foundation for UNC’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, which works with news organizations to investigate and develop new business models and tools.  She was also author of a 2016 report, “The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts” (available at

As a senior business executive, Abernathy was responsible for both creating and implementing strategies at some of the nation's most prominent news organizations and publishing companies, including the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. She oversaw the successful launch of new multimedia enterprises that increased both revenue and profit at all three organizations. She also served as vice president and executive director of industry programs at the Paley Center for Media, which counts as its members some of the world’s leading media companies and executives.

Before moving to the business side of the industry, Abernathy was a newspaper reporter and editor at several daily newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, The Dallas Times-Herald and The Wichita Eagle-Beacon. She was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998. She has MBA and M.S. degrees from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from UNC-Greensboro.

Articles by this Author

Nearly 1,800 newspapers have died since 2004, creating “news deserts” across the country. At many remaining journals, cuts have been so deep that they've become “ghost papers.” What are the implications for democracy?