D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George wants to save local news by using taxpayer dollars to supply coupons to residents to buy news subscriptions.
Lewis George introduced the Local News Funding Act, that would set aside 0.1 percent of the District’s annual budget for grants to go to local news coverage.
“Strong journalism is indispensable for a healthy democracy and an accountable government, but local news is being shuttered by layoffs. This bill would create a stable funding source for local reporting so it can continue to inform residents, uncover corruption and abuse, highlight injustices and inequalities, and hold our government accountable to its people,” said Councilmember Lewis George.
But this is dangerous for taxpayers.
It is dangerous because who would control the editorial content especially if your local government is paying for you to read it?
“Newspapers are continuing to vanish at a rapid rate. An average of more than two a week are disappearing,” according to Northwestern University’s 2022 report on the state of local news.
Over the last decade while newspaper subscriptions and advertising revenue is down, alternative based news sites are growing and raking in revenue from their online platforms. These news sites, commonly referred to as “blogs”, are impacting local elections and shifting readers to their websites.
A website called 209 Times contributed to the defeat of former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs who then got mainstream media to call the sites stories about him “misinformation“.
“I personally, and my organization, take responsibility for the political defeat of Michael Tubbs, but ultimately it was the community that spoke,” said Motecuzoma Sanchez, founder of 209 Times.
209 Times was able to leverage their social media platform to consistently point out issues in the City which ultimately led to Tubbs not being reelected.
On the other hand, the Stockton Standard, did the opposite. They heaped praise on Tubbs and was silent on anything disparaging about him.
Tubbs now leads a nonprofit called End Poverty In California with a mission to reduce poverty, however, a new report reveals that poverty is increasing.
Traditional newspapers struggle to keep up with readers especially when you take into consideration they are importing journalists who don’t have any connection to the areas they write about. They also struggle because they suppress the news the people want to read about.
Black newspapers are particularly devastated because they don’t print a daily newspaper, like the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, Atlanta Journal Constitution or the Washington Post and New York Times are able to do. They instead print weekly newspapers and by the time the readers get their newspapers, which are typically free, the news is old and they are behind the curve.
Black newspapers don’t hire journalists directly, they are all freelance meaning none of their writers are able to apply for coveted press credentials to be present in press conferences pertaining to local government and law enforcement matters. They receive media advisory’s but are stopped when it says “credential media only“.
Traditional newspapers are also struggling to connect with their audience on social media which is where alternative news sites thrive. They have a following that doesn’t cost them to acquire and with minimal overhead they are profitable and able to sustain without subscriptions.
With Lewis George’s proposal, should it be approved, I foresee a discrimination lawsuit in D.C.’s future should those funds not go towards digital subscriptions for alternative news sites in addition to print news.
Would you purchase a newspaper subscription if your city offered you a coupon to do so? Would you trust the news would be unbiased or omit the necessary information to keep you voting the way they want you to?
To read the full article in the Washington Post click here.