Dem AGs push for federal legislation to protect local news
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a former news reporter, earlier this week joined nearly a dozen other attorneys general to advocate for federal legislation that would protect local news outlets.
The digital age decimated the country’s newspapers, which suffered a 26% employment decline from 2008 and 2020. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2023 seeks to mitigate that by empowering local publishers to fight for proper compensation when digital giants, like Facebook or Twitter, use their content to capture online traffic. But the legislation has stagnated in Congress and Mayes, along with 10 other Democrat attorneys general, pushed for its passage in a letter sent on Tuesday.
“We are deeply concerned that local news organizations across the country continue to struggle because of significantly reduced revenues, media consolidation, and a growing reliance on online news to serve those roles,” they wrote.
Roughly half of Americans get their news from social media. And while she acknowledged that the platforms have an important role to play in connecting people to community and regionally-specific information, Mayes noted that they’ve also contributed to the rise in disinformation and polarization. Research has found that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter operate under algorithms that help amplify inaccurate and often harmful content.
“As a former reporter, I know how important local journalism is to providing the public with transparency and holding the powerful accountable,” Mayes said. “It is no stretch to say that the increase in polarization over the past several years has been exacerbated by a news and information vacuum created by the ongoing collapse of local journalism.”
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, according to Mayes, would benefit the public by addressing the power imbalance between local outlets and social media giants, ultimately giving local news a financial leg up.
The act allows news publishers with fewer than 1,500 full-time employees to partner with similarly sized newsrooms to negotiate pricing and republishing conditions with digital platforms that have at least 50 million U.S. users or are worth more than $550 billion.
Journalist and local newspaper associations support the act, though they pointed out the issues facing the industry are varied.
“Newsrooms have been shuttered, advertising revenue has disappeared, and journalists should be compensated for their work being shared across social media platforms,” said Claire Regan, president of the Society for Professional Journalists in an emailed statement. “These platforms have benefited for years from news being posted to their sites with none of those benefits reaching the newsrooms that produce it.”
“These larger corporations are benefitting from the hard work done by local journalists and they’re using that content for free on their platform,” echoed Lisa Simpson, executive director of the Arizona Newspapers Association. “Local community newspapers should be fairly compensated for these larger platforms to use their content.”