A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Check out the #SaveTheNews hashtag on Twitter. This week local journalists are spotlighting the work that shows how essential they are, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
The hashtag is part of a new NewsGuild campaign to convince Congress to include relief $$$ for the news industry in the next Covid-19 stimulus package. Common Dreams wrote about the guild’s proposals in this story. The union wants direct grants to workers at local print and online news outlets; if not direct grants, then expanded access to the Paycheck Protection Program for news outlets; or at the very least, increased federal spending on ads in local papers to make up for recently lost revenue.
The second idea, adjusting PPP because some news outlets are currently ineligible, is getting a lot of support. The basic problem is that conglomerates with lots of papers in different markets are too big to apply for PPP, but if they were allowed to apply on a per-paper basis, they’d meet the requirements. The House’s Heroes Act included this adjustment, but that bill was said to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
However: A bipartisan group of senators are supporting the exact same fix. (After all, every senator has hometown news outlets to look after.) So this particular idea is not dead. NewsGuild, representing employees, is far from the only outfit lobbying for relief; trade associations representing newspaper owners and TV and radio stations are also pushing for action.
The key Qs are: When will Mitch McConnell let the Senate pass another rescue package? And will the GOP incorporate any of the proposed provisions that would help local outlets? Here’s the latest from CNN on the bill timing…
“The coronavirus has closed more than 25 local newsrooms across America. And counting.”
Katie Pellico emails: Poynter’s Kristen Hare reports that dozens of “small newsrooms around the country, often more than 100 years old, often the only news source in those places, are closing under the weight of the coronavirus.”
Hare has been cataloging cuts and closures at local newsrooms for weeks. She tweeted, “In the process of reporting on layoffs, I’ve gotten pretty regular tips about newsroom closures. I started collecting them. At 10, I told my boss it should be a story. I started writing. By the time I finished, there were more than 25.”
>> Related: Poynter has launched Locally, “an information hub designed specifically to help local journalists navigate their rapidly changing industry.”
Manjoo: “The Worst Is Yet to Come”
In his decidedly grim new NYT column, Farhad Manjoo renounces optimism. He suggests “we should spend more time considering the real possibility that every problem we face will get much worse than we ever imagined. The coronavirus is like a heat-seeking missile designed to frustrate progress in almost every corner of society, from politics to the economy to the environment.” Manjoo says “the only way to avoid the worst fate might be to dwell on it. To forestall doom, it’s time to go full doomer.”
>> Fellow Times writer Shira Ovide tweeted about the significance of such a statement from the “relentlessly optimistic” opinion columnist: “Welcome to the ‘oh god this is bad’ place…”
FOR THE RECORD
– “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” the director-general of the World Health Organization said Wednesday, while the organization reported its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases… (CNN)
– “We live in a patchwork pandemic,” by Ed Yong, is a must-read about the next phase of the crisis. Yong points out the inherent danger in news outlets hyping “rare acts of incaution” versus the much more common scene of people responsibly staying at home… (The Atlantic)
– A mix of “humility and apprehensiveness seems the best guide as we devise policy” for the Covid-19 age, Nick Kristof writes. That approach seems to apply to the news coverage, too… (NYT)
– In other news: The big three nightly newscasts all led with the flooding emergency in Michigan… (ABC)
– Norah O’Donnell addressed Tuesday’s technical failure and chalked it up to “working in the era of Covid-19…” (Mediaite)
– Today in Trump: His steady stream of tweeted allegations – all unsubstantiated or just false – “told a sinister story, even by his own conspiracy-around-every-corner standard,” Kevin Liptak wrote… (CNN)
– WaPo’s Thursday lead: “Trump threatens states over plans for mail-in voting…” (WaPo)
– Sneak peek: TIME’s new cover story, out Thursday morning, is about “Generation Pandemic,” looking at how the pandemic will shape the Class of 2020. Charlotte Alter authored the story, and the cover features a photo taken by a new graduate…