Journalism Needs a Stimulus. Here’s What it Should Look Like
THE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 HAS UPENDED everything, including business as usual in Washington. In a matter of days, facing the reality of a nationwide shutdown and a worsening economic crisis, Congress got serious about spending money—a lot of it.
A recovery package in the trillions of dollars is expected soon, and more stimulus bills are likely to follow. While the most powerful lobbies in Washington—the airlines, the oil companies, the chambers of commerce—are ready with their wish lists, the media and policymakers aren’t talking enough about how recovery and stimulus bills could help journalism.
Free Press, the independent, nonprofit advocacy organization I lead, champions structural solutions to the news business’s dire financial problems. We’ve long campaigned for more federal and state support for public media, opposed media consolidation, and argued that journalism is too important to democracy to be left to the whims of the market.
In the face of this pandemic, the public needs good, economically secure journalists more than ever. As most of us are sheltered in place, journalists are out there tracking the spread of COVID-19, separating fact from fiction, and holding politicians and powerful institutions accountable. We need the press asking tough questions and digging through fine print—starting with this fast-moving recovery bill, which is both absolutely necessary and particularly ripe for corruption and boondoggles. Crucially, we need local reporters delivering information on how to stay safe and healthy, who is saving lives, what institutional failures are making matters worse.
To support that work, we need a journalism stimulus now. Free Press is asking for at least $5 billion in emergency funds right away—which would be less than half of one percent of a trillion-dollar recovery package—and that Congress put a foundation in place to help sustain journalism over the long term.