In a year of fighting a global pandemic, historic protests for racial equality, and the rapidly approaching presidential election, America needs journalists to bring them critical reporting. The events of this year have led to significant increases in traffic to news publisher websites, as Americans look to local journalists to inform them about the news and events in their communities. People trust and appreciate their local news publishers. But publishers are also losing tremendous advertising revenue because of the pandemic. And at a time when the public wants and needs quality news and information more than ever, the major tech platforms still refuse to compensate most news publishers, even while they pay creators for the ability to distribute music and lots of other kinds of content. Combined, these challenges have left numerous publishers across the country in danger of shuttering before the end of this election cycle, with even more disappearing before the next crisis.
As we celebrate National Newspaper Week this year, we are reminded that without dedicated, hardworking journalists, many of the biggest stories of the past decade – at the global, national and local levels – would have gone untold. Last fall, the News Media Alliance introduced the News Impact Project to highlight the unique value local journalists provide and share examples of their impactful stories. For example, The (New Orleans) Advocate exposed the towns that rely on speeding ticket fines to fund community services; The Oregonian helped push law enforcement to come through on a promise to clear the backlog of untested rape kits; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spent a year reporting on the ways in which Georgia senior care facilities were failing residents and their families; and the Sidney (Montana) Herald questioned police who weren’t releasing public information to the press.
Local journalists are the reason we have the information we need to make decisions about our lives and our leaders. Without their passionate dedication to newsgathering and superb storytelling, we would understand so little of the world around us.
America needs journalists more than ever. If we don’t act soon to support them, we risk losing something even more valuable than our daily newspaper – we risk losing our democracy. Journalists hold those in power accountable, and we need to support them now to ensure they can continue in this critical role, enshrined in the First Amendment. We need and trust our local journalists. Let’s not wait until it’s too late to show them our appreciation for everything they do.
In addition, we encourage you to contact your members of Congress to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), which would allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with tech platforms, such as Google and Facebook, for fair compensation for use of journalists’ content. This safe harbor bill would help news publishers, especially local news publishers, recoup some of the advertising revenue usurped by the platforms and continue to reinvest in providing the high-quality journalism we all rely on.
David Chavern serves as President & CEO of the News Media Alliance. Chavern has built a career spanning 30 years in executive strategic and operational roles, and most recently completed a decade-long tenure at the United States Chamber of Commerce.
By David Chavern, President & CEO, News Media Alliance