Every community has a story | SAVE THE NEWS

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide a much-needed boost to save local news jobs, says 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.

“The erosion of local news puts our democracy at threat of extinction,” he said. We enthusiastically support this plan to save local news.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced in the Senate in July by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced a bipartisan version of the bill (H.R.3940) in the House in June.

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. 

Tweet Your Support

"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."

A provocative new research paper confirms many of the fears about private equity firms buying up America’s newspapers.
Horror is not too strong a word for how the news hit me. Alden Global Capital, the most rapacious of the ownership groups currently wrecking local newspapers, wanted to buy my old paper, the Buffalo News.
Huge issues face the United States and the rest of the world – issues that require rigorous local journalism to help people understand the problems and identify solutions. Yet widespread financial disruption has handicapped the news industry just as the need grows. And the news itself – including the pandemic and climate change -- has made the challenge even greater for local journalists.
“The business models of local news have collapsed in many communities, so it has now gone from being just some private companies’ woes to being a crisis for democracy,” said Steven Waldman, the president of Report for America, a service program that places journalists in understaffed newsrooms. Mr. Waldman consulted on the federal provision.
With the news that Alden Global Capital, notorious for gobbling up newspapers and laying off reporters, is moving to acquire Lee Enterprises, one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, it feels like the hedge fund takeover of local news is inevitable. Even without this acquisition, half of the daily newspaper circulation in the United States is already owned by hedge funds. Hedge fund annexation can be stopped, but only if we look at the problem in new ways and accept that it will require government involvement.
IN JUNE, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES published an op-ed by Steven Waldman—the president and co-founder of Report for America (RFA), the journalism organization that pairs early-career journalists with news outlets that have identified critical gaps in their own coverage—titled “How to stop hedge funds from wrecking local news.” In the op-ed, Waldman writes that such investors, which own “half of the daily newspaper circulation in America,” have “a track record of cutting the reporting staff of local newsrooms to increase profits”; he also suggests policy proposals, including “improving antitrust enforcement,” to “confront” the damages done to local journalism by hedge funds, “head on.” Waldman has written and spoken critically about the perils of hedge-fund ownership on numerous occasions, even as Report for America has placed journalists in newsrooms owned by hedge funds. Now, it seems that one such news organization may have taken issue with those critiques.
“They call Alden a vulture hedge fund, and I think that’s honestly a misnomer,” Johnson said. “A vulture doesn’t hold a wounded animal’s head underwater. This is predatory.”
Some may shrug at the inevitable passing of the local newspaper, writing it off as a dinosaur that doesn’t have much to offer in our modern world of blogs, social media sites, and streamed soundbites. But no news is not necessarily good news for society as a whole, says Harvard Business School Professor Jonas Heese. When local newspapers shutter, some businesses evidently treat the lack of press coverage as permission to act badly and end up committing more illegal violations, including pollution, workplace safety infractions, and financial fraud, according to Heese’s research.