America's Newspapers is taking a three-part approach with its advocacy efforts, members heard at last week's PIVOT 2020 virtual conference.
"We want to educate our members about relevant bills," CEO Dean Ridings said. Secondly, America's Newspapers wants to encourage action from the members. Ridings said the "primary power of our advocacy is our members' grassroots efforts" and having them reach out to their legislators to impact pending legislation. A third tool includes providing "analysis and insights so our members can inform their audiences about the isues and, hopefully, gain their support."
Ridings noted that these resources include ready-to-publish editorials, editorial cartoons, ads that explain the issues, plus relevant information so member newspapers can create their own content. America's Newspapers also works closely with the News Media Alliance to promote mutual goals.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 are two pieces of legislation that America's Newspapers is encouraging members to support.
Joining Ridings for this session at PIVOT were Alan Fisco, president of The Seattle Times Company and newly-elected president of America's Newspapers, and Francis Wick, president of Wick Communications.
Wick said: "I see this piece of legislation (Local Journalism Sustainability Act) focusing in on the real need to incentivize good behavior of owners, readers and businesses and ultimately to transform and invest in our organization so that we are transforming into a new business model that is stronger and more dynamic in the future. And, the best part ... this is not a handout. This all sunsets ... after five years."
Fisco says there is "a fair degree of confidence" that the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will be passed in the coming months. This legislation would give publishers a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws to allow print and digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors.
"But then what?" Fisco said, stressing the need for the industry to speak with "a unified voice when we sit down to discussions with the Googles and Facebooks." America's Newspapers, he said, will stay close to this legislation as it evolves over the coming months.
View a recording of this advocacy session at PIVOT and learn how you can help protect the interests of the newspaper industry.
America’s Newspapers has taken a leadership role in advocating for this legislation on behalf of our members and the overall industry. We now have obtained 55 cosponsors for the bill in a bipartisan show of support for the importance of local newspapers. Our goal is to have 100 or more cosponsors for this bill, and we need your continued support to reach this number.
72 cosponsors ... as of Oct. 13:
The date indicates when they signed on as a cosponsor
That’s why it’s so heartening to see in recent weeks that Americans of all persuasions, and their political leaders on both sides of the aisle, are coalescing around a cause for a community pillar with a history of helping this nation navigate past buffeting winds of turmoil: Saving local journalism.
The most obvious is the community’s access to news about itself: The workings of its town hall; information about taxes and property values; the operation of schools for its children; the achievements, or the criminal activities, of local residents; the scores of local ball teams; schedules and reviews of movies, concerts, restaurants and books; and the offerings of local small businesses.
But the less obvious losses when a newspaper disappears may be the most devastating to a community.
We are seeing more cosponsors sign on in support of H.R. 7640, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.
Dean Ridings, CEO of America's Newspapers, said: "This increasing show of bipartisan support is a great step, but it is important for our members to continue to reach out to their legislators and ask for their support for this bill and to educate their readers."
As you probably know by now, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (HR 7640) was filed in the House of Representatives, and as an industry we now have a solution to reference moving forward. This bill directly addresses the critical components of the journalism ecosystem (readers, business owners and journalists) and can provide meaningful support to your newspaper as our industry continues to evolve.
There are three things that need to occur to move this effort forward:
We have an opportunity for this effort to be understood by lawmakers now and over the next few weeks as the stimulus package discussions occur. With united efforts and voices in concert, we will ensure that your newspaper — and local journalism in general — has the best chance to succeed as an independent institution to help provide oversight the way our founding fathers intended ... essentially staying true to its principles and our founding documents.
Thank you for taking action today,
CEO, America's Newspapers
America's Newspapers is calling on all newspapers to contact their Congressional representatives asking for their support of H.R. 7640, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. In addition, we urge you to share copies of editorials you have run in your newspaper in support of this legislation. Send your editorials for inclusion on this page to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our industry needs your support!
There is a bright light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. It’s a piece of legislation known as the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA).
Read the full editorial from Cal Bryant (edited to update the number of cosponsors since this column was originally published)
"As a lobbyist," Hetzel writes, "a major part of my job was to help politicians understand that whatever gripes they had with the national media — many of which I share — that was noise and not what we were about. Unlike Don Lemon or Tucker Carlson, local journalists aren’t driven by who’s up or down in the polls or purposely framing stories to satisfy an agenda. They’re just trying to report the news."
But that demand also comes at a time when the pandemic has tightened budgets for families and businesses, two sources of support that local journalism — in particular newspapers — have long depended upon to underwrite that coverage: subscriptions and advertising.
Like a lot of businesses, The Daily Herald and its parent, Sound Publishing, have faced tough decisions to cut costs while still meeting the demand to provide news and community coverage that informs and entertains. And those decisions are little different than what other local journalism providers are having to confront throughout the nation.
We are a small business and privately held. No fancy towers in New York City. No, our modest world headquarters sits right off Interstate 45 as you cross onto the island. And our employees are as local as they get. You see us at the local grocery stores, farmers markets and places of worship.
Our hope is that your support — the action of reaching out to your congressional representatives — will allow us to continue to serve and play a role in our community for years to come.
Newhouse is co-sponsoring the bill with Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona. This bipartisan effort includes three good ideas to help local newspapers endure the devastating effects of a pandemic that arrived as the industry was already vulnerable. Over three decades, the landscape has been adversely impacted by consolidation and disinvestment by nonlocal financial opportunists, and more recently monopolistic control of digital advertising.
Editor's Note: America’s Newspapers supports passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which was introduced July 16. It is critically important that newspapers across the country get involved and take action to encourage their Congressional representatives to support this legislation. Members are encouraged to publish this opinion piece and the accompanying editorial cartoon — or write their own editorial — to educate the public about this important issue.