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Democracy Awards

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier

Representing the 11th District of California

Representatives DeSaulnier, Lofgren, Perlmutter, and Raskin Call on Media Companies to Protect High-Quality, Fact-Based News

March 26, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) called on Gannett Co., Inc. and Verizon Media Group to consider the impact that their recent job cuts at multiple media outlets will have on the public’s access to high-quality, fact-based news. In January of this year, Gannett and Verizon, two of the nation’s largest media groups, both cut hundreds of jobs across print, broadcast, and digital media.

“A free and open press—specifically local press—plays a vital role in keeping communities informed and engaged” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “Since 2004, 1,800 local papers have been closed or merged, and as a result, the quality of content and coverage suffers. In a time when fact-based information is under attack by those at the highest levels of our government, maintaining a robust media workforce is critical to maintaining an informed citizenry and promoting good government.”

“The importance of local journalism cannot be understated. The founding fathers wisely gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy – to inform the people of the actions of government and to scrutinize our elected officials. Today, with local print and digital journalism facing severe budget constraints and workforce cutbacks, that role our founding fathers envisioned is in jeopardy. Having formerly served in local government, I know that digital aggregators and wire stories are no substitute for local reporters who understand their communities and can uniquely convey how government policies might impact them. I thank my colleague, Representative Mark DeSaulnier, and am proud to join in his efforts to preserve a robust local news corp,” said Congresswoman Lofgren.

“Media outlets across the country are experiencing devastating cuts to their newsrooms and it is jeopardizing quality local journalism in our communities. An independent and free press is crucial to our democracy and we must do everything we can to preserve fact-based reporting to inform our citizenry, strengthen our communities, and hold those in power accountable,” said Congressman Perlmutter.

“A free and vibrant press is essential to our democracy. Not everyone can go to congressional hearings, attend state legislative sessions or cover county and city council meetings late into the night. But as citizens we are all equally implicated by these events, and invested in ascertaining the truth,” said Congressman Raskin. “This is why we need local journalists and newspapers to get that information for us. Layoffs of reporters in newsrooms across the country and the decline in local news outlets will have grave consequences for our democracy. As Jefferson said, ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’”

About one-third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs since 2017, and the number of employees in the industry has drastically decreased. In 2017, 39,210 individuals worked as reporters and editors in the newspaper industry, down from 71,640 in 2004—a 45 percent loss. Such layoffs have had a severe impact on newsrooms across the country. Though 45 percent of people surveyed by Gallup blamed “fake news” for their lack of trust in the media, almost 70 percent say that trust could be restored.

A link to the letter sent to Gannett Co., Inc. can be found here.

A link to the letter sent to Verizon Media Group can be found here.

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