A group of America’s Newspapers members made a strategic visit to the Capitol last week to advocate for the newspaper industry and to grow support for HR 4756, the Community News & Small Business Support Act. In addition to meeting directly with congressional leaders, the group also hosted a “Lunch and Learn” session for congressional staff members to spotlight the crucial role newspapers play in local communities and the need for congressional support. The luncheon was held in the Rayburn Office building.
Heidi Wright, America’s Newspapers president, kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of maintaining healthy newsrooms and keeping journalists covering their communities. Additionally, Francis Wick, America’s Newspapers director, shared his own personal story on the importance of local newsrooms and the financial challenges that newspapers now face.
Cameron Williams, CRO of Ogden Newspapers, described the importance of making personal visits to representatives, “while every call, email and op-ed makes a difference, there is no substitute for the human connections we are able to build by meeting with our congressional members and their staffs in their own offices. At the end of a long day, my final visit coincided with a visit from the Congressman’s mom. It’s turns out that she has a scrapbook a foot thick with our front pages detailing her son’s high school football career. She was so excited to meet us! Meeting her and talking about the challenges facing her hometown paper made our issues real, not only for her, but also for the Congressman and his team in a whole new way. We had a treasured 40-year subscriber spontaneously testifying on our behalf, right in the room! That was an unusual and great coincidence, but every in-person meeting gives opportunities to build these connections and deepen the understanding of the problems we need to solve.”
Joining America’s Newspapers publishers and company leaders were Penny Abernathy, visiting professor at Northwestern University and well-known author, along with Sara April, partner with Dirks, Van Essen and April, who also presented vital information to the congressional group. Abernathy talked about the updated results from the 2023 State of Local News report. The study illustrates the ongoing decline in local newsrooms and the increase in news deserts across the country. April further emphasized the challenges facing newspapers and how their financial challenges have impacted the acquisition environment for potential buyers and sellers.
Additional members of the contingent included Cameron Williams, Alan Fisco, Zachary Richner, Jeremy Gulban, along with staff members Dean Ridings and Greg Watson. Steve Waldman, chair of the Rebuild Local News Coalition, also participated in the event.
Jeremy Gulban, CEO of CherryRoad Media, said: “I thought it was a great experience to meet with our elected officials to share the challenges our industry faces and the solutions we are working on to address these challenges. We still have a long way to go but these meetings were a good step towards establishing a needed dialogue with our elected representatives.”
In addition to the Lunch and Learn, the group met directly with the offices of more than 20 congressional leaders, sharing the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and how the Community News & Small Business Support Act would provide a bridge to the newspapers that are most at risk. Dean Ridings, America’s Newspapers CEO, said that “these legislative visits are invaluable to help explain the need to support HR 4756. While everyone we met with understood that the industry is facing headwinds, not everyone realized the urgency, and many were not aware of the bill. These personal visits really make the difference.”
The group met either with staff or directly with Representatives Cliff Bentz (R-Oregon); Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon); Mike Carey (R-Ohio); Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Oregon); Juan Ciscomani (R-Arizona); Ben Cline (R-Virginia); Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia); Lou Correa (D-California); Suzan DelBene (D-Washington); Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota); Tom Kean (R-North Carolina); Nicole Malliotakis (R-New York); Blake Moore (R-Utah); Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands); Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pennsylvania); Terri Sewell (D-Alabama); Mike Thompson (D-California) and Ritchie Torres (D-New York). They also met with staff of Senators J.D. Vance (R-Ohio); Mike Braun (R-Indiana); John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
“I am proud of the great work performed by this group of America’s Newspapers leaders in Washington, D.C., last week. As our members continue to reach out to their members of Congress, whether in person, by phone or even email, we will continue to grow the support for HR 4756,” stated Ridings.