Brier Dudley / Free Press Editor


U.S. Rep. DeSaulnier on the value of local news

December 01, 2021

U.S. Rep. DeSaulnier on the value of local news

Multiple responses are needed to save what's left of newspapers that provide most local news coverage, even after their newsrooms shrank by 60% since 2008. Read more

MORE ABOUT THE FREE PRESS

LOCAL NEWS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
— AND IT'S DISAPPEARING

Local newspapers increase civic engagement, voter turnout, the number of candidates running for office and constituents’ influence of their government officials. The free press has a direct impact on public health, public policy, public safety, public education and the environment.

Local news is disappearing

More than 1 in 5 local newspapers in the United States has closed since 2004, leaving two thirds of U.S. counties with no newspaper at all. Rural communities are especially hard hit – almost half of them have no local paper and no access to crucial information about what’s happening where they live. Ninety percent of news media is now owned by a small group of corporate conglomerates. The free press is burdened by a dramatically changed industry model and depleted support from the public institutions that built it for the public good.

A free people requires a free press, a voice separate from their government, to protect against singular, state-controlled messages; to hold those in power accountable; and to promote the public exchange of information and ideas.

“Congressmen who are less covered by the local press work less for their constituencies.”
- MIT study by James M. Snyder, Jr. and David Strömberg
“You can actually see the financial consequences that have to be borne by local citizens as a result of newspaper closures.”
– Chang Lee, University of Illinois at Chicago
“When reliable local reporting dries up, voter turnout falls, and so does the number of candidates for local office.”
– Gar Alperovitz, co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative
“The paper on my doorstep is part of my understanding of a civil and functioning society.”
– A Seattle Times reader
“It used to be that the heart of a community was its newspaper. So many have shuttered over the past decade. Still, when a pandemic, natural disaster or mass shooting occurs, who would you want covering it? Reporters and editors who live in the community and know everyone, or some reporter from The New York Times parachuting in for the day? Seattle is lucky it has a terrific paper.”
– A Seattle Times reader via Facebook
“Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals.”
– Research by Chang Lee and Paul Gao

THE SEATTLE TIMES IS ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS IN THE U.S.

The Seattle Times is the oldest family-owned daily metropolitan newspaper in the United States. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our public-service mission, re-investing in and protecting our local legacy to preserve and perpetuate quality local journalism. The Seattle Times’ Save the Free Press public-service initiative seeks to secure a sustainable future for local, independent journalism; to build momentum around industry reform; and to protect the free and independent local press that is so vital to democracy.

“Our self-governing democracy cannot survive without a national system of vibrant local newspapers.”
Frank A. Blethen, publisher, The Seattle Times

HOW AND WHY THE FREE PRESS WAS CREATED

Our Founding Fathers knew that a free people would depend on a free press. They created the free press system for a self-governing society. They saw that information was controlled by the wealthy and powerful, and for this new free press to be free, it would need to be protected from both the government and the rich and powerful. News and information needed to be widespread and accessible to all.

To accomplish these key objectives, the Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, protecting the press from government interference and censorship; created the U.S. Postal Service to ensure broad distribution of newspapers and periodicals; and subsidized publishers by making them postmasters, to enhance news creation. This established the new government’s vibrant press and enduring democracy. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote that if he had to “decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Our Founding Fathers understood and upheld the simple fact that daylight is the antidote to corruption, and requires scrutiny by citizens armed with true, solid information. They could not have foreseen the threats to this once-robust free press system and carefully built democracy, with vast majority of the press run by non-democratic business oligarchies and the ensuing spread of disinformation. The Save the Free Press project seeks to reform newspaper and media ownership and re-establish the Founders’ principles of protection, subsidization and universal access.

Founding Fathers

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote that if he had to “decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Our Founding Fathers understood and upheld the simple fact that daylight is the antidote to corruption, and requires scrutiny by citizens armed with true, solid information. They could not have foreseen the threats to this once-robust free press system and carefully built democracy, with vast majority of the press run by non-democratic business oligarchies and the ensuing spread of disinformation. The Save the Free Press initiative seeks to reform newspaper and media ownership and re-establish the Founders’ principles of protection, subsidization and universal access.

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