Every community has a story | SAVE THE NEWS

American democracy depends on every citizen having easy access to credible, factual information they need to make informed decisions about their health, their safety, their government, and their everyday lives. 

But that kind of essential information is getting harder to find as the news industry is gripped by a crisis: The business model that sustained American journalism has collapsed as advertising revenue abandoned news publications in favor of a handful of technology companies. Many cities and towns have lost local news coverage entirely. At least 2,100 newspapers have folded across the U.S. since 2004, and 1,300 communities have become “news deserts.” 

But the fact that the business model for the news industry has changed doesn’t mean that the public service these news sources provide is any less important. In communities that have no newspaper, fewer people vote and the cost of their government increases. Partisanship increases with the loss of the community connection created by common sources of information.

The NewsGuild represents 16,000 American journalists, and we believe that journalists and their work are essential to a functioning democracy. We call for public policy solutions to the crisis facing the news industry that  focus not just on jobs and revenue, but on supporting the critical role of a free, independent and robust press in American life. To that end, we offer an agenda for public policy that will restore and sustain American journalism, resting on three pillars. 

More journalism jobs

Newspapers need new streams of revenue to support robust staffing. New funding, whether from taxpayer funding, subsidies or fees, must be channeled toward restoring or adding newsroom jobs — not inflating the bottom line of news companies.

More local

To save local news America needs stronger regulation of media consolidation, and incentives both for the breakup of existing media chains and the purchase of news organizations by civic-minded, local owners, including non-profits, public benefit corporations, co-ops and employee-ownership models.

More press freedom

Press freedom fundamentally stems from the ability of journalists to gather and publish the news without interference or intimidation from individuals, government or their employers. 

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"While journalists are covering the biggest story of their lives, the news industry is fighting to survive. That’s why we're fighting to #SaveTheNews to keep reporters on the streets and our communities connected."

"Furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs are impacting tens of thousands of journalists – just when Americans need news most. Fight to #SaveTheNews."

"Journalists are at work providing life-saving information to readers, with many outlets offering COVID-19 coverage for free as a public service. It is critical for Congress to provide funding for local newsrooms and journalists. Help #SaveTheNews."

“It’s definitely safe to say that there is a trend of some newspapers returning to local ownership,” April said. “… It made sense for these large newspaper companies to build when they did, but now it’s making sense for them to peel off these papers and put them in the hands of people who can really operate them in this day and age.”
The NewsGuild-CWA is enthusiastically supporting a bill that would provide a path to financial stability for struggling local newspapers, digital-only publications and local television and radio stations through a series of tax credits. “The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide a much-needed boost to save local news jobs,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “Half of America’s journalism jobs have been wiped out in the past decade and the losses have accelerated during the pandemic.
Since 2008, newsroom employment has plummeted at U.S. newspapers while increasing in the digital publishing sector. Newspaper newsroom employment fell 57% between 2008 and 2020, from roughly 71,000 jobs to about 31,000. At the same time, the number of digital-native newsroom employees rose 144%, from 7,400 workers in 2008 to about 18,000 in 2020. Despite this sharp increase, the number of newsroom employees in the digital-native sector remained about 13,000 below the number in the newspaper sector in 2020.
The local news crisis is complicated, and a single citation can’t tell the whole story... We do not have a robust ecosystem. We have this poverty compared to what we had even a decade ago, regardless of whether you measure the loss of news organizations, or whether you measure the loss of reporters, or the loss of news stories.
The ink wasn’t dry, but the hushed deal to finance Alden Global Capital’s takeover of Tribune Publishing fell quickly into place in May. So quickly that the terms for saddling Tribune with hundreds of millions in debt must have been worked out well in advance by Alden and its attorneys. Now that the purchase appears complete, the actions of Tribune’s former board come across as self-serving, while the facts suggest violations of both securities and corporate law.
As the pandemic recedes in the United States, few businesses may emerge so transformed as local and regional newspapers. More than 70 local newsrooms have closed over the past 15 months, with hundreds of media jobs lost, as the already difficult financial conditions in the industry intensified during the crisis. By some estimates, a staggering 2,100 local newspapers, or one in four, have closed in the US since 2005. But into the carnage a new breed of owner has emerged: one that has industry veterans and media observers deeply worried about the future of journalism in America and its ability to act as part of a functioning democracy. According to a recent analysis, hedge funds or private equity firms now control half of US daily newspapers, including some of the largest newspaper groups in the country: Tribune, McClatchy and MediaNews Group.
When Jon Mitchell, the mayor of New Bedford, Mass., delivered his state of the city address in 2019, he made an unusual plea. “Support your local paper,” he said, referring to The Standard-Times, New Bedford’s daily newspaper. “Your city needs it to function effectively.” Owned by Gannett, the parent company of USA Today and more than 250 other dailies, The Standard-Times was getting thin. Like thousands of newspapers across the country, it was taking on the characteristics of a “ghost” paper — a diminished publication that had lost much of its staff, curtailing its reach and its journalistic ambitions. Now, two years later, the mayor’s assessment is more blunt.
Already, steps to strip cash from the business and lay off staff have begun. The Associated Press reports that Alden “wasted little time installing new leadership and saddling the newspaper chain with $278 million in debt it took on for the acquisition.” The new owners also are seeking to reduce staff levels by encouraging employees to accept a voluntary buyout. According to Keith Kelly of the New York Post, the buyout “provides eight weeks’ severance for all staffers with three years or less of service. It provides 12 weeks for staffers with four or more years and then one additional week’s pay for each year of service.”