Now more than ever Americans rely upon the availability of local news reporting during times of crisis. It should be no surprise that, like all small businesses across our country, local news organizations are suffering the same economic uncertainty and challenges.
Our country was founded on the need for a robust and free press.
We must ensure it stays that way.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the local news industry nationally, causing advertising revenue to dry up as businesses are shuttering while they combat the virus.
This has led to across the board layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts for thousands of journalists and workers in local newspapers.
Americans depend on local media to know what is happening in their communities.
Many communities as a direct result of the coronavirus have seen their options for local media outlets dwindle.
During the pandemic, local journalists play an irreplaceable role in keeping communities informed about which hospitals are at capacity, the latest health and safety alerts, and guidelines specific to local communities.
They also advise us where and when testing can be done.
Many local news outlets are even making their COVID-19 coverage free for all readers as a public service.
In recent months, local news sites have seen a surge in online readership, serving as a clear indicator of how important local news is.
Local news availability is not only critical in times of crisis, it's a glue that bonds communities in normal times by local journalists, who keep communities connected and informed on from everything from local sports, school board meetings, city council meetings, candidate forums.
Local news even provides the invaluable service of investigative reporting.
Just as importantly, local news helps keep government accountable to voting and tax paying citizens. Thus, when a region loses local news there are fewer eyes keeping tabs on government budgets and decision-making. As a result, the risk of government corruption goes up; local governments become increasingly careless with borrowing and spending.
Across all 50 states, local news media employs tens of thousands of Americans serving the public interest, contribuing to the local economy. This treasure can't be outsourced or meaningfully replaced by non-local or national alternatives.
As Congress works to provide emergency relief for American workers, they must come to the aid of local news as well. Republicans and Democrats must beat their political swords into plowshares, joining forces in an effort to save jobs — and save the news.
On April 18, 2020, U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., John Kennedy, R-La., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn,, and John Boozman, R-Ark., sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. calling for a Senate stimulus package to make more local newspapers eligible for small business assistance as well as paycheck protection. This would be a part of cornavirus aid and relief legislation. They recognized in their letter of support the need to keep community news alive and functioning for America.
On April 23, 2020, 72 U.S. senators — Republicans and Democrats — sent a letter to the executive branch, doing so through Russell T. Vought, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in support of providing aid to local media journalists and staff.
They urged the executive branch to join their efforts to preserve local news and local jobs: "We strongly believe that local newspapers and broadcasters play an integral role during the COVID-19 pandemic and making sure that [they] are able to continue operating during this time is critical."
Now is the time to come the aid of local news, journalists and workers. Congress and the administration must work together in a nonpartisan way to provide the necessary and needed relief to save local news and jobs for the good and welfare of the nation.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business. Mr. Blakeman is also a registered lobbyist for the Communications Workers of America. Read Bradley Blakeman's Reports — More Here.
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