Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, recently introduced legislation aimed at protecting and honoring local journalism’s role in supporting democracy.
Perlmutter joined Reps. Mark DeSaulnier of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, in co-sponsoring the local news resolution, which asks Congress to work with news outlets to help stop the decline of local news outlets.
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In the resolution, the Democratic representatives wrote that local print and digital journalism is disappearing at a record rate. They added that while many local reporters retain the trust of their communities, trust in journalists is “at an all-time low nationally,” and “nonjournalistic digital media” has been “falsely labeled and marketed as news.”
The resolution also says that local print and digital journalism are essential to promoting “good governance” at the state and local level, and that a lack of local news will allow for “greater local and statewide political corruption.”
The representatives also introduced the Saving Local News Act, which would make it easier for newspapers to become nonprofits, according to a press release from Perlmutter. This would allow the newspapers “the flexibility to focus less on maximizing profits and more on producing quality content.”
“Local and accurate sources of news are becoming more and more important for our community and our country,” Perlmutter said in the statement. “I believe Congress has a role to play to ensure legitimate media outlets are able to better adapt to the changing media landscape and continue to inform Americans in every community.”
Local news outlets have declined rapidly in Colorado. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of reporters covering critical information needs of Coloradans has declined by over 40%, according to data compiled by the Colorado Media Project. Almost 1 in 5 Colorado newspapers had closed since 2004.
“We now live in a country in which at least 200 counties have no local newspapers at all,” Cicilline said in a statement. “This crisis in American journalism has led to the crises we are seeing today in our democracy and civic life.”
“Local journalism has been the bedrock of American democracy for centuries,” DeSaulnier said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand how journalists for local newspapers have kept our community informed, educated voters, and held power to account. As local newspapers are being bought up and taken over by large corporations, it is incumbent on Congress to act to protect this public good.”
Many news associations support the bill and resolution, including the News Media Alliance, News Leaders Association, California News Publishers Association and faculty of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University, according to Perlmutter’s press release.
“Honest, truthful reporting is essential to informing our democracy at all levels,” said George Stanley, the president of the News Leaders Association. “Without it, we won’t remain a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. Bills that help sustain local reporting that informs people about what their government representatives are up to, will help keep the citizens in charge of our country.”
This is not the first time Colorado representatives have worked to protect local news outlets. Denver Rep. Diana DeGette and DeSaulnier, along with several other representatives, introduced a resolution in 2019 to recognize the importance of local news and to bring awareness to the decline of local news coverage.
“Maintaining a truly free and independent press is vital to our democracy,” DeGette said in a 2019 statement. “We, as a society, rely on members of the press to be our watch dogs — to sound the alarms and hold our government leaders accountable when necessary.”
Perlmutter and DeGette are part of a working group formed by DeSaulnier to protect local news outlets across the country.
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