WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — In a letter to Senate leadership and appropriators, Maine Independent Sen. Angus King and 19 other senators stressed the importance of local news and reporting amidst the public health crisis. King and the group of senators are seeking to support local journalism and media in any future coronavirus relief package.
“Reliable local news and information has been critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it has become more scarce,” the letter says.
The letter says the widespread impact of the pandemic, including plummeting advertising revenue, could decimate regional and local news outlets even as communities have become increasingly reliant on their reporting.
“Already some newspapers have reduced or eliminated print editions, while other news outlets have furloughed staff,” King said in a statement.
Local newspapers and media outlets have been in jeopardy of survival for years, but the coronavirus could be the final blow to many across the country.
Even before the outbreak took hold in Maine, the Portland Press Herald, Lewiston Sun Journal, Morning Sentinel, and Kennebec Journal stopped production of their Monday print editions on March 2 in a cost-cutting effort to preserve jobs.
Gannett, which owns USA Today and more than 250 local papers across the U.S., has said it would begin a series of cost reductions including a furlough program in April, May, and June, as well as other cost-saving measures.
Another newspaper publishing company, McClatchy—one of the largest news publishers in the country—is in bankruptcy.
Last week, Facebook announced it would investing $100 million to support the news industry during the coronavirus crisis: $25 million in emergency grant funding, and $75 million in additional marketing spend to move money over to news organizations around the world.
The unprecedented $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief package passed in March includes money to help individual Americans with a one-time stimulus check, the health care system to help fight the coronavirus, expanded unemployment benefits, small business grants, state and local governments, and grants for airlines, among others.
While some news outlets can qualify for small business grants, there is not a specific measure in the package that seeks to support the news industry during the coronavirus crisis.
“Any future stimulus package must contain funding to support this important industry at such a critical time,” the letter says.
Read the full letter here:
Other notable senators in the group who wrote the letter are Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, N.J. Sen. Cory Booker, Va. Sen. Tim Kaine, and N.H. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, among others.