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Authors Guild Supports Senate and Tech Sector Efforts to Fund Local News

The news media was on shaky ground before the arrival of COVID-19, having lost over 60% of staff and advertising revenue in the last decade thanks to the shift of advertising dollars from news publications to Google and Facebook. Now the COVID-19 crisis is shaking news publications to their core. Local news outlets have been hit particularly hard, absorbing the brunt of the estimated 28,000 layoffs, furloughs, or pay slashes that have devastated the journalism industry in just the last two months.

Amidst a crisis with a profoundly local impact, in many communities it is only local news organizations that have the boots on the ground and the community ties to circulate news and information on where to get tested, hospital capacity, road closures, the hours of essential businesses, and other details that may be critical to survival in this most trying of times. Yet many of these outlets are in jeopardy.

That’s why the Authors Guild applauds and supports the letter 19 senators sent to Senate leadership earlier this month, calling for specific funding to support local journalism and media in any future stimulus package. “During this unprecedented public health crisis,” the senators declare, “people need to have access to their trusted local news outlets for . . . reliable and sometimes life-saving information.”

Facebook and Google, who recently have taken baby steps toward acknowledging their role in the decline of the news industry’s revenues, have also stepped to the plate. On April 7, the Facebook Journalism Project launched a News Relief Fund where, through April 24, local newsrooms can apply for grant opportunities to help sustain their service to their communities.

Not to be outdone, Google launched this week a global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to provide an application-based financial assistance program for “small and medium-sized news organizations producing original news for local communities.”

Though these companies’ siphoning of ad revenue from local news outlets was the prime cause of their decline in the first place, it’s heartening to see the recognition from these tech giants that local journalism is essential to communities, and we applaud these efforts.

Lastly, please keep in mind that, if you have the means, you too can support local journalism, as many of the outlets you rely on in your community have established funds to help sustain critical reporting as we navigate the uncertainties of the moment.