(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Representatives Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Diana DeGette (CO-01), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) introduced a House Resolution to recognize the vital role local journalism plays in promoting good governance, accountability, and community. The resolution and tonight’s Saving Local News special order are part of an ongoing effort by Congressman DeSaulnier and Members of a working group formed to protect and promote local news. In addition to calling for the preservation of local journalism, the resolution raises awareness about the troubling trend of disappearing local coverage.
“At a time when fact and accountability are under constant attack by those at the highest levels of our government, it is incumbent on Congress to help preserve local news. Hedge funds are buying up papers with the sole goal of maximizing profits, causing the quality and quantity of content of local coverage to suffer. Failing to act would pose a real risk to our democracy,” said Congressman DeSaulnier.
Since 2004, 1,800 local papers have been closed or merged. As a result, the industry has suffered massive layoffs across the country. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2004, 71,640 people worked as reporters and editors in the newspaper industry, but as of 2017 that number shrank to 39,210—a 45 percent decrease. In the Bay Area alone, newspapers have witnessed a dramatic swing from about 1,500 journalists at its high point, down to less than 300 journalists to serve roughly 7 million people.
“Maintaining a truly free and independent press is vital to our democracy. Journalists are our watchdogs. We rely on them to sound the alarm and hold our government leaders accountable to the people they serve. In these tumultuous times, there could be no greater threat to our system of government than the rapid decline in the number of journalists across the country. We should all be working together to help keep our local news outlets operating for years to come,” said Congresswoman DeGette.
“The importance of local journalism cannot be understated. The founding fathers wisely gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy – to inform the people of the actions of government and to scrutinize our elected officials. Today, with local print and digital journalism facing severe budget constraints and workforce cutbacks, that role our founding fathers envisioned is in jeopardy. Having formerly served in local government, I know that digital aggregators and wire stories are no substitute for local reporters who understand their communities and can uniquely convey how government policies might impact them. I thank my colleague, Representative Mark DeSaulnier, and am proud to join in his efforts to preserve a robust local news corp.,” said Congresswoman Lofgren.
“As in other times of sharp political division and national stress, like the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, the press is under ferocious political attack today. Journalists are castigated, ridiculed, attacked and even murdered, including in my home state of Maryland, simply for doing their jobs. When reporters can’t do their jobs, our ability to function as a reflective democracy suffers. I’m proud to support this Resolution reaffirming the importance of protecting and defending local journalism. The free press is not the enemy of the people but the people’s best friend,” said Congressman Raskin.