Advocating for the Heart and Soul of Journalism
Advocating for the Heart and Soul of Journalism. Credit: (freepik.com)

Last Updated on October 3, 2022 by BVN

S.E. Williams

At a time in our nation’s history when a free press is more essential to sustaining our democracy than ever before, political forces, changing technology and antitrust laws have inadvertently conspired to weaken the nation’s fourth estate. 

The dual role of the media defined by Random House as the “ explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues,” has been compromised is part as the result of a few powerful platforms like Facebook and Google consume and control the lion’s share of digital advertising and in most instances, are now the main source of news consumption for many consumers. 

These industry behemoths grow while local media declines as evidenced by the more than 30,000 industry jobs lost since 2008 according to a Pew Research Report. While at the same time, news deserts expand.

Equally as disturbing for news organizations is that even when Google, for example, links to news articles providing content selections for consumers, reports show fully  65% of users never bother to click through to the news publishers’ websites. In other words, newsrooms that invest in producing important journalism for the public to consume and make it readily available on major digital platforms, as noted in a Los Angeles Times Editorial, can’t earn sufficient advertising revenue to cover their costs. 

The current media model is not necessarily conducive to a free market economy as the model does not seem to fit how the internet has changed the paradigm regarding media and the press. 

“As the daughter of a newspaperman, I understand firsthand the vital role that a free press plays in strengthening our democracy. But local news is facing an existential crisis in our country, with ad revenues plummeting, newspapers closing, and many rural communities becoming ‘news deserts’ without access to local reporting.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

This is because, as noted by Pew In 2021, about eight in ten Americans got their news from digital devices. When Americans shifted their preference for news from print, television, radio and other news services to internet platforms, the advertising dollars followed. 

Despite the success of internet platforms and the  failure of the free market to self correct as it relates to news and media, many– including federal legislators–believe the real weak spot in the evolving industry is not so much with the major platforms as it is with the very design of the news industry market and the laws surrounding it. 

To this end, federal legislators are seeking to empower local media outlets by authorizing them to come together and form a unified voice to strengthen their negotiating power with internet platform giants to advocate for payment in exchange for the content they create. 

The proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will remove legal barriers currently faced by news organizations that prevent them from negotiating collectively– especially as it relates to securing fair terms from platforms that frequently access content without paying for it. 

As part of the legislation, newspaper publishers will also have the right to demand arbitration if negotiations betweens the news organizations and the platform leaders falls apart. The Times report noted that although some oppose the legislation because it creates a carve-out of the  federal antitrust law that regulates economic competition and coordination. The irony in this however is that a similar carve-out already exists for internet platform giants like Google, etc. 

If a carve-out was created for the platform providers then it seems only fair that creating a carve-out for news publications should be a no brainer. As they say, “What is good for the goose should certainly be good for the gander.” 

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would benefit small publications like the Black Voice News, the IE Voice and so many others. To reemphasize what is noted above, the draft legislation states in part, “news publishers with fewer than 1,500 exclusive full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters that engage in standard newsgathering practices—to form joint negotiation entities to collectively negotiate with a covered platform over the terms and conditions of the covered platform’s access to digital news content.”

Preserving news and making it accessible to all

The loss of hundreds of small news outlets across the country has expanded the number of news deserts.  More than half of the country has just one local newspaper or no newspaper at all.  As noted in a press release by Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “The consequences are bad for everyone: fewer local news providers translates to unchecked governmental corruption, corporate misconduct, and widespread misinformation, plus a raft of other consequences for citizens, taxpayers, and our democracy.” 

All of us bore witness to this during the Trump era that lead to massive disinformation and confusion during the peak of the epic COVID-19 pandemic in relation to both the virus and the vaccines; and in relation to the 2020 election and subsequent insurrection.  

We encourage you to support the work of the Black Voice News, the IE Voice and other news outlets by calling your U.S. Senator and House Representatives and encourage the passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. You can do so by calling  (202) 224-3121.

Thank you in advance for your support. I’m keeping it real.

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S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephanie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.