Save The News: Paths Forward Town Hall

As more local news outlets close their doors amid dried up revenue streams, destructive hedge fund ownership, and tech platform monopolies, the issue has become as clear as day: local news is facing an extinction-level event. 

The NewsGuild is fighting to save the news, and the “Paths Forward Town Hall” this week provided insight into the scope of the crisis facing American journalism, and a stirring call to action from some of the leading thinkers on building a sustainable future for the news industry.

Here are some highlights from the panel, which you can watch on the NewsGuild Facebook page here or check out the video below:

Panelists:

  • Penelope Muse Abernathy, author of the “News Deserts” reports that quantify the stunning loss of news coverage across vast swaths of America, and identify some of the key drivers of the crisis. 

  • Steven Waldman, co-founder of Report for America and author of the landmark 2009 report for the Federal Communications Commission, “Information Needs of Communities.”

  • Victor Pickard, a professor at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, where his research focuses on the history and political economy of media institutions, media activism, and government policy around media.

We encourage you to watch the whole event below, but here are a few highlights:

Journalism is a Public Service

"Embrace the idea that being a local journalist is a public service profession. None of us went into it for the money. Increasingly, we have to re-embrace that. State it with pride, and really view ourselves as a service to the community." ~Steven Waldman

"One of the encouraging things is that trust in local media is still much higher than in national media. As a journalist, you tend to put a 'wall' between you and your community. But we have a role to build those communities and inform our democracy." ~Penelope Muse Abernathy

“There is value to journalism that goes beyond profitability. We don't only have bookstores. We also have public libraries. We have to get to that place in journalism.” ~Steven Waldman

Impact of Hedge Fund Management

"We have to make sure owners aren't public in name only, but truly owned by the people who live in those communities. We need to democratize our newsrooms, and ensure that they look like the communities they serve." ~Victor Pickard

"Do we have to rely on billionaires to fund journalism? There's something not quite right about that, but I think about philanthropy in a bigger sense. The community must support journalism. In addition, there has to be a government role.” ~Steven Waldman

Hopeful Solutions

"There's carrots and sticks: we can offer incentives to have owners donate outlets to nonprofits. The stick is that government antitrust policy can take up ‘localism’ as a public policy value when considering mergers—may not hurt competition, but they hurt the community." ~Steven Waldman

"If you look at a community that has lost a newspaper, they're often very poor. That has real implications. How do we begin to address getting money to support that public good?" ~Penelope Muse Abernathy

"One of my first calls for our Save the News effort was to Sen. John Boozman, a now-co-sponsor of the Local News and Emergency Information Act. Republicans, too, realize that the New York Times can't parachute in to cover local issues in those more rural states." ~Jon Schleuss

 "There has been a newfound appreciation for the 4th estate. I think there's a growing concern about [its loss]. Right now there's a consensus, across the party spectrum, about saving their local institutions. Now is a rare opening to dream bold ideas." ~Victor Pickard