New Coronavirus Relief Bill Must Prevent Extinction for Local News Outlets
Local news outlets had been decimated by the tech giants before the coronavirus pandemic. But the collapse of advertising revenue and the overall economic decline is an “extinction-level” crisis for local news in the United States. Congress and the Federal Reserve have provided relief funding for large and small enterprises across the country. The federal government must provide funding to support local news outlets in any new relief package to prevent the industry from being wiped out.
A new bill being introduced in the House of Representatives will allow local news organizations to apply for small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Originally, many local news outlets were barred from participating in the program because they are part of newspaper chains owned by large corporations. Sen. Schumer has backed this proposal and it enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate.
We have concerns about federal support for the free press. And we must ensure that any public funds go to the actual local news staff and do not simply line the pockets of the hedge fund billionaires that own most of the largest newspaper chains. But this is an unprecedented crisis that threatens the very existence of the local news industry. The only lifeline for local news now, just like many other industries, is support from the federal government.
The following is a statement from John Stanton, laid-off former D.C. Bureau Chief at BuzzFeed and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:
“More than 33,000 reporters and newsroom staff have been laid off or furloughed since the coronavirus pandemic began. How much more devastation in the news industry is necessary before Congress acts to help? The existence of the news industry is hanging in the balance. We are encouraged by the House bill and hope with it, and support of lawmakers like Sen. Schumer, there may still be a chance to save local news outlets. While government support raises concerns about editorial independence and we must ensure that any funding doesn’t line the pockets of rich investors, we simply can’t let those issues prevent a rescue of local news by the federal government. Journalism as we know it is under an extinction-level threat and it is now or never for Congress to step up and fight for this pillar of democracy.”