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Why it matters: a bill in Congress to help save local journalism

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would give news organizations a way to negotiate with Big Tech for fair compensation for their news gathering.

Newspaper reader
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

It’s no secret the newspaper industry has been going through grueling challenges for years. The economic pummeling has hit papers of all sizes, as the growth of the Internet, rising newsprint and operating costs, and especially declining advertising have forced cutbacks and worse.

The headwinds have been especially hard on the smaller local newspapers. Nationwide, nearly 1,800 papers have closed their doors in the past 15 years or so, with weekly newspapers most often the victims.

Weekly and small daily newspapers are often the only source of local news. When they close, there is usually no one keeping an eye on the city councils, county boards, school boards and law enforcement. Without the small papers, area residents lose not only a watchdog over government, but no longer get the profiles of local businesses, nonprofits and residents.

For hundreds of years, our democracy has depended on reliable news coverage of government and institutions, something that’s dwindled with the loss of and cutbacks at newspapers.

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People now increasingly get any news on major social media platforms, along with a growing amount of propaganda, conspiracy theories and outright lies. Those massive platforms — including Facebook and Google — have developed a lucrative business model, which includes posting newspapers’ content — content they get for free.

While the platforms get their content for free, they also leverage it to get more and more of the total advertising revenue pie, with news publishers left with less and less.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act making its way through Congress would help even the playing field for publishers of news.

The bipartisan bill would allow news organizations to join together to negotiate with tech behemoths to get fair compensation for the news content the news organizations create. Similar laws have passed in several other countries.

We encourage all of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to support the bill, which would help bring back the resources needed in newsrooms across the country, allowing them to provide reliable local information for residents.