A coalition representing more than 3,000 local newsrooms, funders of local journalism, and civil society organizations advocating for a healthy free press—including Report for America—today urged Congressional leaders to bolster support for America’s community news organizations in the infrastructure bill.
“Local news is a pillar of democracy’s civic infrastructure — and it is crumbling,” began a letter addressed to Senator Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
The letter went on to describe how some 1,800 communities have lost their news outlets in recent decades, creating a vacuum that is being filled by “social media, partisan hyperbole, and harmful disinformation.” This crisis has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The infrastructure bill is called the ‘American Jobs Plan.’ Supporting local news preserves jobs, to be sure. But it is more than that, as it will also help local communities thrive and democracy endure. We urge you to include measures in the infrastructure bill that reinvigorate local news.”
Attentive to concerns that government assistance to the news media can be harmful if done the wrong way, the coalition stated that “the crisis in local news has become so severe we believe urgent action is necessary — and can, indeed, be done in a content-neutral, nonpartisan way, minimizing the risk of government favoritism or interference.”
They went on to note that this would not be the first time public policy has assisted journalism, referencing how the “Founding Fathers provided content-neutral support to newspapers, through the Postal Service, because they viewed it as essential infrastructure for a healthy republic.”
The Rebuild Local News Coalition is composed of organizations representing weekly newspapers, nonprofit websites, Black newspaper publishers, Hispanic publishers, independent news websites, free speech advocates, public radio stations, national nonprofit groups, daily newspapers and leading funders of local journalism innovation.
Signatories to the letter are: National Newspaper Association; Local Independent Online News Publishers; Institute for Nonprofit News; National Association of Hispanic Publications; The NewsGuild / CWA; Local Media Consortium; National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Association of Alternative Newsmedia; Report for America / The GroundTruth Project; American Journalism Project; Public Knowledge; PEN America; Solutions Journalism Network; Lenfest Institute for Journalism; and Free Press Action.
The coalition is coordinated by Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America, and author of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2011 landmark report on local news and public policy, “Information Needs of Communities: The changing media landscape in a broadband age.”
“This is an incredibly broad range of groups representing local news — rural and urban, nonprofit and commercial, newspapers and digital-first websites, large and especially small,” Waldman said. “The crisis affects all of us which is why the response seems to be so nonpartisan and broad “
Learn more about the coalition and its policy proposals at rebuildlocalnews.org.
About Rebuild Local News
Rebuild Local News is a coalition of organizations advocating for locally-grounded and nonprofit community journalism. The 3,000+ newsrooms that we represent include weekly community newspapers, citywide nonprofit websites, ethnic publications, centers for state watchdog journalism, digital-first news sites, rural papers, public radio stations, and family-owned newspapers as well as the leading organizations advancing local journalism innovation. The coalition is housed at The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring journalism from the ground up by supporting the next generation of journalists through field reporting that serves under-covered corners of the United States and the world.
About Report for America
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. Launched in 2017, Report for America is creating a new, sustainable system that provides Americans with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization with an established track record of training and supporting teams of emerging journalists around the world, including the recent launch of Report for the World in partnership with local newsrooms in India and Nigeria.