Industry & Advocacy News
April 20, 2020
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
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.