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Pulitzer Center Update September 24, 2020

Pulitzer Center, 18 Groups Support ‘Future of Local News Commission’ Act

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The Wimberley View of Wimberley, Texas is sold in a newspaper stand. Image by Kristin Taibi / Shutterstock. United States, 2020.

The Pulitzer Center has joined with 18 other news organizations as a signatory in support of the "Future of Local News Commission" Act, which would establish a commission to "study the state of local news and its ability to sustain democracy by informing the American public about critical Issues."

Co-sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the proposed commission comes at a time when local news is under increased strain from both longtime systemic challenges and heightened economic woes from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Pew Research Center and the University of North Carolina, total newsroom employment—across newspapers, television, radio, and digital—dropped by roughly 25 percent from 2008 to 2019.

"Independent journalism is more crucial than ever to American democracy but its business model no longer works," said Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center. "We applaud this effort to better understand a crisis that affects us all—and to explore possible solutions."

If established, the commission would:

  • Include 13 members with relevant experience—in print, digital, and broadcast news, as well as the business, civil society, and research communities—from diverse regions of the country;
  • Examine the implications for the American democracy of the disappearance of local newspapers, digital native sites, and broadcasting outlets in every state and territory, and in rural, urban, suburban, insular, and tribal communities, and those serving Black communities and non-English-speaking communities;
  • Assess the effectiveness of existing federal laws, institutions, and programs in supporting the production of local news; and
  • Provide recommendations on whether the federal government should create and could effectively implement a program to support independent, high-quality local news, and consider how such a program could be structured and financed to ensure the editorial integrity of news outlets, to keep them free from governmental or political control.

The other signatories supporting the legislation are: PEN America; Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers; Alliance for Community Media; National Writers Union; Society of Professional Journalists; Ethnic Media Services; Online News Association; Free Press Action; National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC); National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ); National Press Photographers Association (NPPA); Native American Journalists Association (NAJA); Society for News Design; Association of Alternative Newsmedia; American Journalism Project; Writers Guild of America, East, AFL- CIO; Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO; The NewsGuild—Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA); and Colorado Media Project.

The full proposed act is available here, and a description of the legislation released by the Senate co-sponsors is available here.