Congress Must Include Local News Funding in Next COVID-19 Stimulus 

(Washington, DC) –Today, a coalition of nearly 50 organizations and media scholars joined Common Cause, PEN America, and Free Press in a letter calling on Congress to include vital funding for local news in the next stimulus package proposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter explains that House and Senate leadership should consider local press an industry vital to the nation’s health, prosperity, and recovery.

“Local news outlets, ranging from state- to city- and community-level media organizations, are necessary partners in meeting the critical information needs of people in the United States,” the letter reads. “Americans cannot endure an accelerated decline in access to vital information. And like other adversely affected sectors of the economy, local news cannot withstand the hardships of COVID-19 and the worsening economic crisis without federal support. We’re calling on you to include the journalism sector in the congressional assistance packages revitalizing affected industries and sustaining workers across our nation.”

Newsroom layoffs and furloughs significantly impact communities’ ability to receive critical news and information. Local news outlets that serve people of color, low-income households and other marginalized groups that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its economic fallout may not have sufficient resources to provide robust news and information on the pandemic. Without adequate resources, local news outlets cannot meet communities’ information needs, putting public safety, the economy, and, ultimately, our democracy at risk.

“Local media is a critical source of news and information for communities, holds our government accountable, and plays an important role in our civic engagement,” said Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Advisor and Former FCC Commissioner. “But the health crisis our nation faces combined with the long-term decline in local news has left many communities without adequate sources of trustworthy news on the pandemic and has created a void in civic information. Congress must act now to ensure local news is adequately funded in order to meet the information needs of communities.”

“The nation’s local news outlets have proven themselves to be valiant first responders amid this pandemic,” said PEN America’s Washington director, Thomas O. Melia. “Yet on top of the health risks individual reporters are taking, the sector as a whole is suffering gravely as the nationwide shutdown has accelerated their loss of revenue. We urge members of Congress to act immediately to provide a lifeline to local reporters and local media to ensure they continue providing their vital service to the American people.”

“We can’t get through this pandemic—or the next one—without resilient and community-centered media,” said Craig Aaron, president and co-CEO of Free Press Action. “Right now, journalists are essential workers. We need reporters out there reporting, especially in working-class and immigrant communities and communities of color, where COVID-19 has had a devastating impact. If we don’t act now, many vital newsrooms won’t make it through this crisis. We must support those providing the trustworthy and life-saving information our communities need and make significant public investments in the future of news.”

The letter asks Congress to allocate at least $5 billion in support of local journalism in the next stimulus package. Funding would go towards supporting public and community media of all kinds, emergency funds targeted at preserving newsrooms and reporting jobs at local commercial and nonprofit news outlets, and investments to address the civic-information needs of communities.

To read the full letter, click here.