Updated May 24, 2020 – In the wake of the coronavirus, major portions of the news industry are threatened with extinction as ad revenue craters. Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts are impinging on our ability to provide the life-saving news our readers desperately want: Where can I get tested? What’s happening at the hospital in my community? What is the government doing to protect me?
In response, momentum for a news industry stimulus is building. Here are some recent developments.
Editorial: Local newspapers are dying. Here’s how we can save them
Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2020
“The problems in the local news business are so widespread and severe, communities across America are in danger of losing their last surviving daily newspapers. And if that happens, they’ll lose not just a crucial source of the information needed to navigate the travails of daily life, but also in many cases the only local organization working to hold government, businesses and powerful individuals accountable. Federal and state governments need to step in with support that helps local news outlets sustain themselves without compromising their independence or the public’s confidence.
…“The publication you are reading is fortunate, having been rescued by a new local owner in 2018, following a unionization drive by our journalists. But the Los Angeles Times is losing money and faces many of the same challenges as other newspapers; we recently implemented furloughs and pay cuts, among other cost-saving measures, as well as selling three community newspapers. To avoid more layoffs, we are taking part in a work-sharing program that allows eligible employees to reduce their hours and receive unemployment benefits.
… “The pandemic relief bill approved by the House on May 15 would expand local news companies’ eligibility for forgivable loans and cut some of their costs. But much more needs to be done to help local news organizations manage not just the pandemic, but also the transition to the internet era and the migration of advertisers to other platforms.
“There are a number of other steps the federal government should consider that could make the local news business more sustainable without compromising its independence…”
America’s Largest Media Union Launches Historic Advocacy Campaign to Save Industry
Daily Beast, May 18, 2020
“The top media union in North America is launching a historic advocacy campaign in a desperate effort to gin up political support to help stave off the economic crunch on the news industry.
“The effort being undertaken by the NewsGuild-CWA will involve a six-figure digital ad campaign, direct lobbying on Capitol Hill, and a new website where—among other things—laid off and furloughed journalists will chronicle the industry’s plights. The goal is both immediate and long term: to get Congress to OK giving direct grants to workers at news outlets; to expand access to the small business lending program so that newspaper chains can tap those funds; to persuade the federal government to start using its existing ad budgets to bolster struggling media entities; and, ultimately, to put an industry that has shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent months on stabler ground.
“‘The window isn’t closed,’ said Jon Schleuss, the president of NewsGuild-CWA. ‘But it has gotten worse [in just the last month] and it is going to get worse every day.’
“The campaign, bluntly titled ‘Save the News,’ is unlike anything that NewsGuild-CWA has done in decades, officials say. And it puts the union in delicate territory: asking for direct assistance from the very political entities and officials that it covers. Schleuss acknowledged the discomfort that can come when an industry premised on telling other people’s stories of suffering now is being forced to chronicle and promote its own. But with newspapers hit hard by slash-and-cut-minded ownership and ad revenues being lost because of the economic downturn caused by the spread of the coronavirus, there are, simply put, few remaining options.”
Media union launches campaign urging Congress to provide stimulus for newsrooms
The Hill, May 18, 2020
“Specifically, the group is urging Congress to direct grants to employees of news outlets and to ensure that all local publishers are included in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including those that are members of larger news companies.
“The campaign also wants federal spending to go toward community outreach advertising for local newspapers to help them recover lost revenue.
“‘I am humbled to see so many members of our industry unite under one cause: protecting local journalism,’ NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said. ‘Americans need access to information about their local communities more than ever, and yet layoffs and furloughs are only increasing as this pandemic continues. Congress needs to act to save the news before it’s too late.’
… “The campaign comes as news organizations and trade associations express an openness to more government assistance. The News Media Alliance, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association and America’s Newspapers have also asked for the federal government to fund local media through advertising campaigns and to ensure that local news outlets can receive PPP assistance, regardless of ownership.”
Reliable Sources, May 18, 2020
“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 Morning Call Guild shared the above photo from Pennsylvania.)
“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. Common Dreams wrote about the guild’s proposals in this story. The union wants direct grants to workers at local print and online news outlets; if not direct grants, then expanded access to the Paycheck Protection Program for news outlets; or at the very least, increased federal spending on ads in local papers to make up for recently lost revenue.
“The second idea, adjusting PPP because some news outlets are currently ineligible, is getting a lot of support. The basic problem is that conglomerates with lots of papers in different markets are too big to apply for PPP, but if they were allowed to apply on a per-paper basis, they’d meet the requirements. The House’s Heroes Act included this adjustment, but that bill was said to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
“However: A bipartisan group of senators are supporting the exact same fix. (After all, every senator has hometown news outlets to look after.) So this particular idea is not dead. NewsGuild, representing employees, is far from the only outfit lobbying for relief; trade associations representing newspaper owners and TV and radio stations are also pushing for action.
“The key Qs are: When will Mitch McConnell let the Senate pass another rescue package? And will the GOP incorporate any of the proposed provisions that would help local outlets? Here’s the latest from CNN on the bill timing.”
Three American cities foster crusades for local control of their newspapers
Seattle Times, May 15, 2020
“As long as there have been nationwide newspaper chains in control of local newsrooms, the locals have dreamed of secession.
“Now, the mayor of Sacramento, Baltimore cronies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and the Chicago Tribune’s newsroom union have broken out in open rebellion, with support from a variety of civic organizations. All three movements seek local control of local papers.
“The pandemic may be helping those who hope to restore local ownership of newspapers. Ad revenues had already been falling since 2006, the Pew Research Center has shown, but the economic freeze-up has revealed local newsroom vulnerability at precisely the moment they are widely recognized as a civic necessity with reader demand for news setting records.”
“Prior assumptions about our business no longer apply”: Cuts pile up at Vice, Quartz, The Economist, BuzzFeed, and Condé Nast
Nieman Lab, May 15, 2020
The crisis facing the news industry goes beyond newspapers and local news. Case in point:
“Hundreds of journalism jobs — primarily, though not exclusively, at digital media outlets — were cut this week, piling up alongside thousands of other media job losses that have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic (and joining the more than 20.5 million jobs that have been lost in the U.S. since April).”
Cantwell, Boozman, Klobuchar, Ernst, Schumer Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Make Local Media Outlets Eligible for Federal COVID-19 Support
Senate.gov, May 13, 2020
“U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), John Boozman (R-AR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020 to make thousands of small local newspapers, radio, and television broadcasters newly eligible for emergency federal support under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“…The legislation makes local newspapers and local radio and TV stations eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, established by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as long as the individual physical location of the outlet that applies for funding meets SBA’s separate size standards – fewer than 1,000 employees for newspapers and less than $41.5 million in gross receipts for broadcasters. The funding would have to be used to produce local news, information, content, or emergency information, and to keep local reporters and those who support them on the job. To that end, the SBA could require the newspaper, radio, or TV station to demonstrate that the loan is necessary for this purpose. No portion of the loan could be paid or transferred to a parent company or used for other purposes.”
The full text of the bill is available here.
Journalism Cannot Be a COVID-19 Casualty
The Nation, May 12, 2020
“Free Press Action, the media reform group with which McChesney and I have long been associated, has come up with a plan that pulls together a host of immediate and longer-term policy recommendations that, if adopted by Congress, could go a long way toward saving local journalism. It would, as well, preserve and extend employment for tens of thousands of reporters during the current crisis and in the future. Two things distinguish Free Press Action’s recommendations. First, they focus on sustaining journalism, rather than bailouts for the big media companies—and hedge-fund investors—that were making a mess of things even before the pandemic hit. Second, they bring realism and precision to a discussion that to this point has lacked clarity.”
Congress Weighs Coronavirus Aid for Local Newspapers, Broadcasters
Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2020
“Congress is looking to help struggling local newspapers, TV and radio stations qualify for federal coronavirus aid, according to people familiar with the matter.
“The coming coronavirus legislation expected to be introduced in the House as soon as this week will include a provision to expand newspapers’ and broadcasters’ eligibility for forgivable small business loans, the people said.
Meanwhile, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) are working to find ways to move the proposal forward in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Many local news outlets haven’t been able to apply for the Small Business Administration’s forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans because of “affiliation rules” that force them to be measured by the size of their parent companies. The new provision to be considered by Congress would waive such rules when it comes to local news outlets.”
We can’t afford to let local news die
The Hill, May 9, 2020 [by Jon Schleuss]
“Any solution must start with bipartisan support for immediate, urgently-needed aid in the next round of federal stimulus funding.
“Ultimately, however, it will take more than just a temporary infusion of cash. One option might be long-term public financing for local journalism. For example, the federal government could establish a fund to support newsrooms and prevent layoffs so that journalists can continue to tell the stories of their communities and hold the powerful to account. The fund would reinforce the existence of private-sector journalism for news deserts (areas without robust local news coverage) in all 50 states.
“News organizations should have to demonstrate financial need and report on how they used the funding. Recipients should be barred for five years from using the money for golden parachutes or engaging in mergers and acquisitions or leveraged buyouts that result in job losses or pay reductions.
“Critically, the fund should ensure recipients remain independent from partisan influence, with guidance on journalistic ethics from organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists. Media organizations that receive public funding like PBS and NPR, while still routinely producing coverage critical of the entire political spectrum, show that this nonpartisan approach to journalism can work.”
Our view: Local newspapers and journalists need federal small business help too
Press of Atlantic City, May 8, 2020
“Small newspapers may be part of a large organization, but they must survive on their own. Their eligibility for PPP help should be based on their own need for help keeping their employees working.
“There is support in Congress for granting waivers of this affiliation rule to small newspapers. That would allow local newspapers to be treated like other small businesses, helping them and their employees survive this unique crisis. We think that’s the fairest approach.
…“Congress and the Trump administration should include help for local newspapers in their next effort to counter the severe recession that already has begun. Doing so would help these small businesses and their employees, and the communities that count on them to see what’s going on and be heard.”
Gallup: Americans Support COVID-19 Relief for Local News
Gallup, Knight Foundation, May 7, 2020
“Americans support directing federal money to local news organizations as part of coronavirus relief efforts, something that has bipartisan congressional support. Sixty-five percent are in favor of including money to help local news organizations in coronavirus relief aid, while 34% are opposed. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats, 60% of independents and 43% of Republicans favor federal assistance to local news organizations.
“However, funding local news is a much lower priority for Americans than providing support for local businesses or individuals affected by the coronavirus situation. When asked how they would allocate a hypothetical $10 million of government relief to their local community among four possible groups, on average, they would give 40% to local residents who lost their job, 34% to local stores/restaurants/businesses, 17% to local charities and 9% to local news organizations.”
Newspapers matter to communities. California lawmakers can help them survive
Desert Sun, May 6, 2020
“When the Louisville Courier-Journal won a Pulitzer Prize this week for its breaking news reporting of hundreds of legal pardons issued by former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin during his final weeks in office — which the Pulitzer Committee described as “marked by opacity, racial disparities and violations of legal norms” — it should have been solely a time of celebration for the community newspaper.
“Instead, reporter Joe Sonka tweeted: ‘I won a Pulitzer Prize today, and I’m on my second week of unpaid furlough starting next Monday.’
“…Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature can help by passing the Save Local Journalism Act.
The proposal is not a bailout. It simply provides California news organizations that have incurred losses during the pandemic with access to the same funding that other industries are seeking. Whether grants to media businesses in low-wealth areas, or low/no interest loans provided by the federal government to the state for distribution to eligible businesses for economic relief due to the pandemic, the lifeline will help community news outlets stay afloat in the short-term while they and the economy recover.”
How a New Breed of Union Activists is Changing the Rules (and Newsrooms)
New York Times, May 3, 2020
“As the coronavirus crisis wreaked havoc in the news business last month, the newly installed president of the most prominent journalists’ union in the country, the NewsGuild, crossed a line that once seemed unimaginable: He asked the government for money.
“The guild’s leaders voted to request ‘public financing for journalism.’ In doing so, they set aside worries from traditionalists at publications including this one, where the chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, told me he worried about ‘blurring the lines’ by asking for help from officials he covers.
“But the union leaders argue that any ethical unease or philosophical debate needs to take a back seat right now to securing members’ jobs, given the forces now threatening to destroy journalism.
“‘One thing we can’t remain objective about is our own demise,’ said Jon Schleuss, the president of the NewsGuild, who took on the role last December.”
Viewpoint: Publicly Fund News Media, Because Journalists Fight for Us All
Labor Notes, May 1, 2020 [by Jon Schleuss]
“The hedge funds and private equity groups that have acquired many of the nation’s newspapers are making these draconian cuts. Their primary interest has been profit, not the public good—and this was true long before the pandemic…
“Rampant corporate greed is a major factor in the explosion of organizing across the media industry…
“We’re working with legislators on Capitol Hill to keep journalists on the job during the pandemic and make sure vulture hedge funds don’t benefit from public support. Aid could come in the form of advertising buys by the government, a paycheck protection program extension to media workers (many work at large corporations that operate hundreds of community publications), or paycheck grants directly to workers (similar to the airline packages).
“But we’re also researching and pushing ideas to create an equivalent of the federal government’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to support news publications online and in print.”
L.A. times Guild strikes deal to avoid newsroom layoffs
LATGuild.com, May 1, 2020
“Today, the Los Angeles Times Guild reached a deal with The Times to avoid more than 80 layoffs and other cuts to our newsroom. From May 10 to August 1, our journalists will work a 20% reduced weekly schedule to cut payroll by more than $2 million while we weather this unprecedented economic crisis. There will be no more newsroom layoffs this quarter.
“We are thankful that management accepted our proposal to avert layoffs, but this is a painful cut…
“We discovered a potent, but little-known, layoff prevention program known as ‘work-sharing.’ Employers who participate in work-sharing can avoid layoffs during a temporary downturn by shortening employees’ hours. Workers maintain health and retirement benefits and are allowed to collect prorated unemployment benefits to offset lost wages. When the downturn ends, hours are restored.”
Baltimore Sun union starts aggressive push for new nonprofit ownership
Baltimore Business Journal, April 30, 2020
“Unions representing journalists at the Baltimore Sun launched a “Save Our Sun” campaign Thursday in an effort to detach the newspaper from its corporate ownership and create a nonprofit news model.
“The effort by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild and the NewsGuild-CWA seeks to return the Sun to local ownership under a revenue model that would reinvest its profits back into the newspaper.”
With Little Hesitation, Struggling News Outlets Accept Federal Aid
New York Times, April 29, 2020
“David Chavern, the News Media Alliance president, stopped short of backing federal money for news outlets outside the conditions brought on by the pandemic. ‘The idea of a permanent fund for journalism is not sustainable with independence from the government,’ he said.
“By contrast, the NewsGuild, a union that represents journalists across the country, has called for federal programs that help local journalism, including a publicly financed fund.
“Jon Schleuss, the NewsGuild president, acknowledged that the government and the news media made strange bedfellows but argued that the dire state of the industry demanded unusual measures.
“‘If we don’t act,’ he said, ‘we could lose it all, and we won’t have the ability to have the discussion.’”
124 Democrats, Republicans Advocate for New Federal Funding to Support Local News
Rep. David Cicilline, April 29, 2020
U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and more than 120 House members of both parties are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to support local news publishers and broadcasters in an upcoming stimulus package. In an April 29 letter they wrote:
“Reliable local information and reporting in our communities is more important than ever—newspapers and broadcasters are working ‘around the clock, often in dangerous conditions, to consistently get critical and timely information to the public.
“Local news publishers and broadcasters employ thousands of journalists—including reporters, photographers, newsroom staff, and others—to provide timely and accurate news to keep people informed about their communities. Under ordinary circumstances, this work is essential to public health and safety, local businesses, and our democracy. But it is more important than ever as our country responds to and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis…
“We therefore urge you to protect local journalism by clarifying that local news publishers and broadcasters that meet the SBA’s size standards and primarily serve a single community or metropolitan area qualify for the newly established Paycheck Protection Program regardless of their affiliation… Many local news publishers and broadcasters, however, may sometimes consist of a small team of local journalists, personalities or sales staff that are part of larger ownership groups. Nevertheless, these publishers and broadcasters operate almost entirely locally. In light of this, it is essential that Congress clarifies that loans that are provided under the Paycheck Protection Program are determined on a local and individual basis for news publishers and broadcasters.
“Importantly, these funds should support local newsgathering—there should be clear guardrails and oversight to ensure they are spent locally.”
Without Coronavirus Aid, Local Newspapers Could Fold
Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2020
“Papers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program because of the way their companies are structured, according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media.
“The issue has prompted a bipartisan push in Congress to either amend PPP rules to make an exception for local news, or get news organizations other forms of aid in the next stimulus bill.
“…Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts have affected roughly 33,000 news organization employees nationwide since the start of the crisis, according to a tracker compiled by the NewsGuild-CWA, the largest journalists’ union.”
Canada: Financially struggling newspapers to get federal money within weeks, heritage minister says
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, April 27, 2020
Newspapers don’t have an audience problem; they have a revenue problem, says publisher
“Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he expects money from an emergency COVID-19 general business wage subsidy program to start flowing within weeks to Canada’s beleaguered newspaper industry.
“Critics say this financial lifeline may come too late, however, to save the pandemic crisis-accelerated loss of newspapers and media jobs — specifically, because a $595-million financial-assistance program first announced 18 months ago has yet to provide any money to increasingly desperate newspaper publishers.”
Will local news outlets survive the pandemic’s blow?
CNN’s Reliable Sources, April 26, 2020
Journalism Industry Needs Coronavirus Relief Funding
NNPA Black Press, April 26, 2020
“The collapse in advertising revenue during the pandemic exacerbated the already perilous financial position of news outlets, who have been decimated by Google and Facebook’s monopolistic actions. The Tampa Bay Times was even forced to cut back to two days a week of printed copies. The forgivable loans will allow these newsrooms to obtain some sense of normalcy but won’t nearly restore the damage done during this crisis.”
Bipartisan support emerges for aid to ailing local news outlets amid pandemic
CBS News, April 23, 2020
“Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild, a union that represents journalists and other media professionals, said the industry has never before experienced pain on this scale, and said it became clear roughly a month ago that the news industry was ‘careening toward what could be an extinction-level event.
“‘This is the largest news story in our lifetime, and we are losing reporting capacity when people need it most. We’ve never seen anything like this,’ he told CBS News. ‘It’s not just the news industry. All sectors of the economy are having a really hard time right now. From our perspective, we’re providing an essential service in providing information that people need to remain safe and they need to know what’s going on in their communities and we also have to hold government accountable in this moment.’
“The prospect of news outlets turning to the government for financial assistance to keep afloat raises obvious questions about how organizations can maintain independence and objectivity. But Schleuss said the way for journalists to do so is by continuing to hold those in power accountable.
“‘This is a crisis and an emergency. We need to make sure that we continue to operate for ourselves but also for our communities because they depend on us so much,’ he said.”
Democratic Leaders of Color Urge Emergency Funding for Diverse Local Media Outlets During COVID-19 Crisis
Congressional Hispanic Caucus, April 22, 2020
“Democratic leaders of color are urging Senate and House leadership to include federal funding for local and ethnic media outlets in a future stimulus package. These organizations are the best positioned to deliver COVID-19 updates to underserved and vulnerable populations, including those who are limited English proficient. Accurate and timely information is a critical component in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in communities of color across the country.”
The letter was signed by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (CA-37), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu (CA-27), and Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chair Deb Haaland (NM-1).
Media Union Turns to Republican Lobbyists to Help Save the Industry
Daily Beast, April 22, 2020
“NewsGuild-CWA, which has 30,000-plus members, has met with GOP lobbyists to solicit their help on economic rescue packages coming from Congress in response to the market crash sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The union, which is an affiliate of the Communications Workers for America, has not yet made a hire. But they are planning to do so, in what would be an act of overt politicking unlike anything the union has done in recent memory.
“‘We have not engaged in political work like this in decades,’ said Jon Schleuss, the president of NewsGuild-CWA. ‘But it is essential because this looks like an extinction-level event.’”
The call for federal support of local news is getting louder
CNN Business, April 20, 2020
“On Monday, more than 240 House members signed a letter to President Trump, urging him to direct federal spending to ads in local media and to encourage businesses that receive stimulus funds to spend a portion of that money on the same.
“This move is just the latest in a string of efforts by US lawmakers over the last month to address the pandemic’s effects on local news. Even as local news outlets see a surge in readership and viewership, their revenue sources have been decimated. Many local news outlets rely on ad dollars from local businesses and events that have been forced to shut down amid the pandemic.”
GOP, Democratic senators call for more assistance to local media in coronavirus stimulus
The Hill, April 19, 2020
“A group of Democratic and Republican senators is pushing for Congress to ensure that more local news outlets are eligible for small business assistance in any future coronavirus stimulus package,” the Hill reported.
“In a letter sent to Senate leadership on Saturday, the bipartisan group noted that thousands of newspapers, as well as hundreds of radio and television stations, were excluded from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) because of a Small Business Administration rule restricting assistance to companies owned by larger entities.”
Deep newspaper job cuts prompt rare plea for federal funding to news media
Washington Post, April 16, 2020
“Cuts have accelerated so greatly that groups representing journalists have taken a maybe unprecedented step and asked the government to help, by keeping the industry afloat financially during the pandemic & seeding its resurgence once the economy begins to recover.
“‘We have to treat this as an emergency,’” said Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild labor union. “‘There is a real interest in public health to keep people informed in this crisis.’”
Vern Buchanan pushes for bailout money to support local media
FlaPol, April 15, 2020
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) wants to make sure local media have access to federal bailout dollars.
“Due to the unprecedented public health crisis and the resulting economic challenges facing our country, many news organizations are on the brink of collapse,” he wrote in a letter to congressional leadership.
“Unfortunately, just as media outlets are working to provide the public with key resources and information about the deadly coronavirus, many are being forced to scale back, furlough or lay off employees.”
COVID-19 pandemic is raising the threat level for news outlets.
Wisconsin Examiner, April 16, 2020
“The coronavirus clearly has been devastating to the news business, just like it has devastated many other industries,” says Ashley Luthern, president of the NewsGuild-CWA at the newspaper. “The news industry, particularly Gannett, has made decisions leading up to this that perhaps made our situation more precarious.”
… “Gannett has taken $329.2 million in advertising and subscriber revenue and given it out to shareholders in the form of dividends in 2018 and 2019 under its two prior companies,” Luthern says. “Those are funds that could have been put back into our local newsrooms serving our local communities.”
…Nationally the NewsGuild-CWA has endorsed a proposal to include a stimulus bill for journalism in the next federal aid package to relieve the impact of the coronavirus. For five years, news employers taking public funds would have to remain nonpartisan, demonstrate financial need, be blocked from using the money for dividends or stock buybacks and barred from offering executive bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes for departing executives.
Congress’ local news bailout push
Axios, April 14, 2020
“A bipartisan group of lawmakers is circulating a draft letter to be sent to the White House requesting additional relief targeted specifically at local newsrooms, according to a draft of the letter obtained by Axios.
“Driving the news: Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas) are seeking support for a letter to President Trump that calls for federal advertising dollars to be prioritized to local outlets.”
But, Axios says, “Between the lines: None of these efforts fully address the needs and asks of the news industry.”
The Pandemic Is Crushing The Journalism Industry. The Government Could Save It.
The scale of the crisis facing the journalism industry requires a radical and dramatic response: a massive public investment in local news.
Huffington Post, April 12, 2020
“The sudden shock has clobbered an industry that had already lost nearly 30,000 jobs ― roughly a quarter of its reporters ― over the last decade, as its advertising-based revenue model proved anachronistic in the age of the internet. City- and statewide lockdowns have further reduced revenues, even as readership soars, so each day now brings news of another round of layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts from somewhere in the beleaguered industry.
…“The scale and speed of the economic crisis has inspired journalists to turn to an unlikely source for help: Congress. The News Media Alliance, one of the newspaper industry’s top trade groups, and the NewsGuild, journalism’s biggest labor union, have each called on Congress for emergency stimulus assistance to prevent layoffs and keep journalists working and news outlets in business amid the crisis. This week, a dozen U.S. senators said a future stimulus package should include support for local news outlets.”
News Media Outlets Have Been Ravaged by the Pandemic
New York Times, April 10, 2020
“The news media business was shaky before the coronavirus started spreading across the country last month. Since then, the economic downturn that put nearly 17 million Americans out of work has led to pay cuts, layoffs and shutdowns at many news outlets, including weeklies like Seven Days in Burlington, Vt., and Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain.
“Finding a sizable audience has not been a problem for publishers. Hunger for news in a time of crisis has sent droves of readers to many publications. But with businesses paused or closed — and no longer willing or able to pay for advertisements — a crucial part of the industry’s support system has cracked.”
NewsGuild to congressional leaders:
News coverage must be a priority in the next stimulus package
‘More Americans will die’ if they cannot access critical information
NewsGuild-CWA, April 9, 2020
The NewsGuild-CWA told congressional leaders that public funding to continue news coverage must be a priority in the next stimulus package, writing on April 9, “More Americans will die” if they cannot access the critical information news outlets provide.
“As the nation shelters indoors, Americans are turning to local, regional and national news in record numbers for life-saving information,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Many publications have lowered digital paywalls to provide COVID-19 coverage for free,” Schleuss wrote. “At the same time, the news industry is seeing plummeting ad revenue created by business closures.
“At this moment when Americans need reliable, community-focused coverage, we risk losing it all,” he warned.
Publishers, broadcasters call on Congress for assistance
News Media Alliance, April 9, 2020
Four national media organizations representing thousands of local newspapers and local broadcast media outlets – the News Media Alliance, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), National Newspaper Association (NNA) and America’s Newspapers – jointly called on Congress to provide critical support to local news media in its next stimulus bill designed to provide relief to businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic
19 Senators ask leaders to include funding for local journalism in any future stimulus bill
NewsGuild-CWA, April 8, 2020
In an April 8 letter, 19 senators asked Senate leaders to include support for local journalism and media in any future stimulus package.
“We ask that any future coronavirus stimulus package contain funding to support local journalism and media. Without this support, communities across the country risk losing one of their key sources of accurate information about what citizens need to know and do in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
NewsGuild joins PEN America, Free Press Action, Common Cause and many more urging targeted assistance
PEN America, April 8, 2020
The NewsGuild joined PEN America, Free Press Action, Common Cause, 42 other media organizations and 7 prominent communications professors to urge congressional leaders to “include targeted assistance to local journalism,” just as they have with other industries deemed essential to our nation’s health, prosperity and recovery.
Coronavirus is testing the power of unionized newsrooms
CNN Business, April 1, 2020
“Action plans aren’t just being formed within individual newsrooms. On Wednesday, the NewsGuild-CWA, which represents thousands of media workers in the US and Canada, called for public stimulus funds for the media industry, NewsGuild president Jon Schleuss told CNN Business…
“‘We’re calling for a stimulus plan that would protect the fourth estate and protect the work because it’s an essential service,’ Schleuss said. ‘It’s really about public health, and it’s about trying to do this in the interest of our communities who are desperate for this information at this critical moment.’
“The stimulus plan has certain stipulations for employers who request public funds. For example, executives are not allowed to take bonuses, stock options or ‘golden parachutes’ for five years. An executive’s compensation also cannot be more than twice as much as that of an editor in chief’s.”
Journalists Need a New Stimulus Package, Says NewsGuild
WWD, April 1, 2020 / Yahoo Finance, April 1, 2020
“A powerful news union is urging Congress to act to save the struggling media sector before some outlets have no choice but to close their doors.
“In the same week that it emerged Gannett, Maven Media, Group Nine and Vice Media have been forced to implement a number of drastic measures such as furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts to keep the lights on, the NewsGuild-CWA, which represents thousands of journalists in the U.S., is pushing for provisions via a stimulus from Congress that will protect news operations.”
Should Congress save US newspapers struggling to cover COVID-19?
ZD Net, April 2, 2020
“News publishers should receive US economic stimulus financial support because of the valuable service they providing in the unfolding COVD-19 crisis, says NewsGuild-CWA…
“NewsGuild is asking Congress to include news outlets in its next stimulus package, arguing that the economic damage from COVID-19 is parenting already struggling news organizations from reporting on important information.
“It is also asking for financial support from state and local governments for their regional news outlets.”
Life-saving news needs a stimulus
NewsGuild-CWA, April 1, 2020
The NewsGuild Executive Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for federal, state, provincial, and local governments to provide public funds to sustain news operations on March 31 and outlined a specific set of proposals
The Guild’s recommendations include acknowledgement that accurate, reliable journalism is an essential service; public financing; job protections such as a prohibition against layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and buyouts so that journalists can report the news, and no-interest loans from the Small Business Administration for news start-ups, including nonprofits and employee-owned co-ops.
Under the NewsGuild’s proposal, public support for news-gathering operations would come with strings attached: Publications would be required to remain independent from partisan influence; they would be required to demonstrate financial need, and would be prohibited from using public money for executive bonuses, dividends, stock buybacks or golden parachutes.
The Coronavirus is Killing Local News
The Atlantic, March 25, 2020
“Among the important steps you should take during this crisis: Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. And buy a subscription to your local newspaper.
“The coronavirus pandemic may be global, but the crisis has kept many people glued to local news. Trustworthy, accurate, and local information is now a matter of life and death. Keeping these news sources afloat needs to be part of the governmental and philanthropic response to the pandemic. The federal government should not ‘bail out’ newsrooms, but future stimulus plans should include steps that can help save local news organizations.”
Journalism Needs a Stimulus
Columbia Journalism Review, March 24, 2020
“While the most powerful lobbies in Washington—the airlines, the oil companies, the chambers of commerce—are ready with their wish lists, the media and policymakers aren’t talking enough about how recovery and stimulus bills could help journalism…
“As most of us are sheltered in place, journalists are out there tracking the spread of COVID-19, separating fact from fiction, and holding politicians and powerful institutions accountable…
“To support that work, we need a journalism stimulus now. Free Press is asking for at least $5 billion in emergency funds right away—which would be less than half of one percent of a trillion-dollar recovery package—and that Congress put a foundation in place to help sustain journalism over the long term.”