News

Newspapers in every state received forgivable, low-interest loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to keep journalists working during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released this week by the Small Business Administration.
Not so long ago, the Youngstown Vindicator sent someone to cover every municipal or school board meeting in the surrounding three-county area. “People knew that,” said Mark Brown, former general manager of the northeastern Ohio newspaper, “and they behaved.”
“As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” Democracy weakens, in other words, and loses its foundations.
Local news publications have been hard hit by financial pressure stemming from the pandemic, with many operating newsrooms gutted by layoffs and furloughs. Now, local journalists are juggling coverage of twin crises — the pandemic and the protests roiling the country — with even fewer resources.
“I was disturbed to see blatant attacks on our press freedom over the weekend. From Fox News to MSNBC, from Minneapolis to Louisville, journalists were among those singled out for simply doing their job — covering protests following the death of George Floyd. Attacks against members of the press, violence against black communities and brutality against peaceful protesters have no place in our democracy,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss.
Now more than ever Americans rely upon the availability of local news reporting during times of crisis. It should be no surprise that, like all small businesses across our country, local news organizations are suffering the same economic uncertainty and challenges. Our country was founded on the need for a robust and free press.
Despite being honored, all three newspapers have had to cut pay, or lay off or furlough workers, since the pandemic started. Unlike the case with many other businesses that are suffering now, however, COVID-19 isn’t the source of these papers’ problems; it has simply accelerated the great disruption in the news business that began at least two decades ago.
Check out the #SaveTheNews hashtag on Twitter. This week local journalists are spotlighting the work that shows how essential they are, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. The hashtag is part of a new NewsGuild campaign to convince Congress to include relief $$$ for the news industry in the next Covid-19 stimulus package.
“And when you lose a small daily or a weekly, you lose the journalist who was gonna show up at your school board meeting, your planning board meeting, your county commissioner meeting,” she said. Communities lose transparency and accountability. Then, she said, research shows that taxes go up and voter participation goes down.
Many local news outlets, like newspapers and tv and radio stations, are suffering financially during the pandemic, but there is an effort to get local media some financial relief in the form of a legislative aid package. Helping lead the effort to convince lawmakers the assistance is vital is NewsGuild President Jon Schluess, who is both a former Arkansas resident and voice on KUAF.
The NewsGuild-CWA, the largest union for journalists in North America, on Monday launched a new advocacy campaign to compel Congress to assist local news organizations financially harmed by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.