News organizations are asking to include $5 billion in funding for local news agencies in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
In a letter sent to House and Senate leaders this week, more than 45 organizations and academics asked for local press to be considered an essential service, "vital to the nation’s health, prosperity, and recovery."
“COVID-19’s devastating economic impact on local news outlets is threatening their ability to function at all,” reads the letter. “We’re calling on you to include the journalism sector in the congressional assistance packages revitalizing affected industries and sustaining workers across our nation.”
The request includes:
● Increased federal appropriations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support public and community media of all kinds
● Emergency funds targeted at preserving newsrooms and reporting jobs at local commercial and nonprofit news outlets
● Investments to address the civic-information needs of communities most impacted by the long-term decline of local news and the spread of news deserts — including communities of color, immigrant communities, Indigenous communities, rural communities, and working-class communities
● Increased federal spending on public health and other government advertising, prioritizing local and community media
● Safeguards to ensure that public funding does not impinge on the editorial independence of any news organization
Since the onset of the coronavirus emergency, more than 60 U.S. news organizations have announced newsroom layoffs, furloughs, and closures, according to the Poynter Institute
. At the same time, local news outlets have lowered paywalls on their virus coverage and provided "critical information that national outlets cannot replace."
“We can’t get through this pandemic — or the next one — without resilient and community-centered media,” said Craig Aaron, president and co-CEO of Free Press Action. “Right now, journalists are essential workers. We need reporters out there reporting, especially in working-class and immigrant communities and communities of color, where COVID-19 has had a devastating impact.
"If we don’t act now, many vital newsrooms won’t make it through this crisis. We must support those providing the trustworthy and life-saving information our communities need and make significant public investments in the future of news.”
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