WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Veasey (TX-33) recently introduced the Future of Local News Act, which will create a committee to study the state of local journalism and offer recommendations to Congress on the actions it can take to support local news organizations. These organizations report on stories that matter to communities and serve as a watchdog for municipal governments while playing a vital role in American democracy. The local news industry has rapidly declined due to an industry-wide transition to digital media and the pandemic-induced economic recession. A Senate companion version of this legislation was also recently introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
“For the past several years, local journalism and media outlets have faced many difficult financial choices. Many news outlets have been forced to cut pay, let go staff, and shut down,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “In our community, local media outlets provide news that we care about, and local journalism is essential to communities across the country in providing up to date information and news during uncertain times. The decline in local journalism is a concerning trend. I am hopeful that my bipartisan Future of Local News Act—which will establish an independent, nonpartisan committee to study the state of local journalism and offer recommendations to Congress on the actions to support local news organizations—can lead to actionable solutions that address this critical issue affecting our civic culture.”
“For our democracy to work, Americans need two things – the ability to exercise their right to vote and the ability to receive real, localized information about what’s happening in their community,” said Rep. Veasey. “With the rise of misinformation and disinformation across all media platforms, developing sustainable pathways for local journalists and outlets to continue being a trusted voice in the community is more important than ever. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Future of Local News Act, which will establish an independent, nonpartisan committee to study the state of local journalism and offer recommendations to Congress on the actions it can take to support local news organizations.”
“Families rely on local journalists to report on the stories that matter most to their communities. From the pandemic response to school boards to how tax dollars are spent, local news outlets provide essential information and perform an irreplaceable public service,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill will help strengthen local news and keep the industry afloat during this tough time.”
“Across America, local newsrooms have been pushed to the brink by a confluence of forces – from industry consolidation to the migration to digital, to the rise of social media and the COVID-19 crisis," said Senator Bennet. "Local reporting that engages citizens, shapes communities, and holds local governments accountable is foundational to our democracy, and I’m concerned that if we do not take action soon, we could be headed for an America without local news. I hope this legislation will help us find common-sense, nonpartisan solutions to support local journalism while preserving the independence vital to the free press."
“As thousands of media outlets have been forced out of business, too many small towns and rural communities have become ‘news deserts’ without access to local news,” said Senator Klobuchar. “As the daughter of a newspaperman, I understand that a free press is vital to our system of government. The Future of Local News Act would help ensure that we preserve the newspapers, radio stations, and broadcasters that keep their communities informed.”
The current pandemic and resulting recession accelerated the trend of moving news consumption online, which collapsed the advertising-based business model that once sustained local print journalism. More than 2,100 local newspapers have shuttered in the last 15 years according to a report by PEN America.
Additionally, local journalists remain a trusted news source that help citizens make informed voting decisions as the country grapples with a serious distrust of institutions, the spread of misinformation, and the threat of foreign interference in elections. Across the country, local news outlets are the only organizations holding local leaders accountable, keeping track of how tax dollars are spent, reporting on local stories, and informing communities about the stories that matter most to them.
This committee would be made up of 13 experts from diverse regions of the U.S. and be tasked with identifying certain actions that Congress can take to confront this local news crisis.