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May 22, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:19am

Save The News: Local journalists across US plead for financial aid to curb Covid-19 ‘devastation’

By William Turvill

Local media journalists across the US have joined together to campaign for Washington to provide relief money to the beleaguered news industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Newsguild, the US media union, this week launched the Save The News campaign. It calls on Congress to either introduce direct grants to employees at local print and online news outlets, expand the Paycheck Protection Program loan scheme to incorporate more news businesses, or fund more advertising in the local press.

As in the UK and across much of the world, local newspapers in the US have been battered by Covid-19, which has led to a collapse in the advertising market and lower print circulations.

Research by Press Gazette in early April identified at least 1,000 newspapers and other publications across the US that were facing cuts as a result of the crisis. Thousands of journalists have been furloughed or had their pay cut.

As part of the Save The News campaign, journalists across the country have been sharing work by local publications to demonstrate their worth.

Launching its campaign on Monday, Newsguild said: “Although journalists are covering the biggest story of their lives, the news industry is fighting for survival.

“Local news outlets have been damaged for years by tech giants that have siphoned away advertising revenue and by private equity owners that have hollowed out the industry with extreme cost-cutting measures.

“Since 2004, the US has lost approximately 1,800 newspapers, many of them small papers outside of major cities. Each of these losses hurts average Americans deeply, taking away the important functions local news plays in their lives.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the devastation. Advertising revenue has dried up as businesses shuttered to combat the virus. This has led to layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts for tens of thousands of journalists.

“At the same time, readers are turning to local news outlets in record numbers in search of accurate, up-to-the-minute information about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting their communities.

“Those journalists who remain have been hard at work providing life-saving public health information to readers, with many outlets offering their Covid-19 coverage for free as a public service despite financial strains.”

The union and its supporters want Congress to ensure that relief is on offer to journalists or their employers when the next Covid-19 stimulus package is announced.

The first way this could be done, they propose, is through direct grants to subsidise reduced incomes of employees at local print and online news outlets.

The second would see the Paycheck Protection Program – which provides loans to struggling businesses across the US – expanded to include more news outlets. Currently, many are ineligible because they are owned by larger businesses.

The third option being pushed is for the federal government to dedicate more advertising money towards local news outlets. Newsguild also suggests that businesses provided with other recovery funds should be incentivised to advertise with local news organisations.

Picture: Pixabay

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