The country is at a standstill. Ad revenue is drying up. Local media outlets, already struggling, are suffering as a result.
Nineteen Democrat Senators are pushing for a bailout of “local journalism and media” in any upcoming Coronavirus relief legislation.
In a letter addressed to Senate leadership, they urged, “any future stimulus package must contain funding to support this important industry at such a critical time. Such a provision should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news.” (Full letter embedded at bottom of post.)
Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined colleagues in a letter calling for funding to support local journalism and media to be included in any future COVID-19 relief packages.
“The current public health crisis has made the already vital role of local news even more critical,” wrote the senators.
The senators warn that the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes impacts advertising funds and profits, could destroy regional and local news outlets. This is happening even as communities have become increasingly reliant on their news reporting during the public health crisis.
“Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “For over a decade, there has been a steady succession of local outlets closing down, reporters being laid off, production schedules cut, and resources tightened as the growth of social media and technology platforms has concentrated critical advertising revenue in the hands of a few. But the current public health crisis has made this problem worse. As many communities have shut down local restaurants, entertainment venues, and other non-essential businesses in an attempt to “flatten the curve,” local papers and local broadcasters have lost even more of the advertising revenue they rely on from these businesses. Communities across the country have seen the further decimation of this important industry as local publications have stopped printing and laid off staff in the last few weeks.
Many Virginia newspapers have implemented pay staff cuts and furloughed staff to deal with the financial impact of the spread of the coronavirus.
Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns several major papers across the state such as the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Daily Progress in Charlottesville, said employees will have to take a pay cut or furlough equivalent of two weeks pay.
Gannett Co. Inc., which also owns several Virginia papers including the News Leader in Staunton, announced employees who make more than $38,000 a year must take a week of leave on a rotating basis.
“Local journalists have proven themselves to be valiant first responders during this pandemic, exposing themselves to a dangerous virus in order to get the story to the people,” said PEN America’s Washington director, Thomas O. Melia. “They are ‘essential workers’ as many executive orders on staying at home at the state and local level have explicitly noted. The sector as a whole is suffering gravely as the nationwide shutdown has accelerated their loss of revenue. This is why we at PEN America support Senator Blumenthal’s initiative to urge Senate leaders to include specific targeted stimulus relief for local journalism at this critical time.”
Last month, Professor Jacobson blogged about the coming media carnage. Having a penchant for seeing these types of things in advance, he wrote:
Given the pervasive distrust of media, particularly national mainstream media, news that the Wuhan coronavirus crisis is hitting news media hard may not garner a lot of sympathy. But the hardest hit is at the local level, not the names you know and love/hate.
Don’t cheer this pain. It will empower the largest corporate behemoths, the heart of the mainstream media, who are the most likely to survive and to take even more market share. The same goes for those with billionaire bankrollers, like the far-left The Intercept.
At Legal InsurrectionFoundation and website, we’re going to have to navigate this environment a little differently. We already run such a lean shop on such a frugal budget. We never lived big.
We are at risk, as are all non-profits, of a decline in donations as a result of the stock market decline and readers worried about or losing their jobs. It’s a little too early to tell how we will be impacted, but we did postpone what would have been a First Anniversary Fundraiser early this month as the timing coincided with the stock market crash. At some point when things calm down, we’ll reach out to readers, who have come through for us bigly in the past.
While our travel plans are on hold, we’re continuing to research behind the scenes, and I’m hopeful we’ll continue to push the envelope as we also cover the crazy news scene. We’re also looking into ways to bring us together with readers “virtually.”
But for now, we’re just doing what we do, watching the media carnage from afar. But we take no joy in the misfortunes of others, whether ‘journalists’ or actual working folk, losing their jobs.
Full Democrat letter here:
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