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American Opinion: It's time for feds to throw a lifeline to local journalism

One of the most powerful forces that hold our communities together is local news. It is as essential as ever — but more threatened than ever.

Newspaper production in Vancouver, Washington.
An employee bundles stacks of freshly printed newspapers at the Columbian newspaper on April 18, 2018, in Vancouver, Wash. In January of 2017 the the U.S. Commerce Department imposed tariffs as much as 32 percent on Canadian newsprint causing paper prices to wildly skyrocket. Over the last two decades, U.S. newspaper circulation has dropped by half.
Natalie Behring/Getty Images/TNS
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The wake of an election in which millions of Americans in diverse districts nationwide made their voices heard is the perfect time to remember: While increasing numbers of Americans may spend ever more time online, whether on Twitter or YouTube or Facebook or even (ugh) in the metaverse, in the ways that matter most, we continue to be rooted here in the real world.

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Our kids go to local schools; we worry about local crime trends (or don’t); the local weather spoils our weekend plans; our laws are shaped by local officials. The work-from-home revolution notwithstanding, more often than not we work in jobs dependent on the local economy. We root for local sports teams and find inspiration in local culture. If we ever took any of this for granted, the COVID-19 pandemic and its painful dislocations should’ve set us straight.

One of the most powerful forces that hold our communities together is local news. It is as essential as ever — but more threatened than ever.

For decades now, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms have been clobbering outlets across the country that first and foremost serve their towns, suburbs and cities. Leveraging anticompetitive practices, they have profited off the journalism that reporters and editors work long hours to produce, in the process essentially cornering the market on online advertising, leaving those who get the news fighting over scraps.

The math is grim. Over the last two decades, U.S. newspaper circulation has dropped by half. The vast majority of U.S. counties with no regular newspaper are in rural areas.

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After years spent lamenting the state of affairs, Congress finally, finally has a plan to bolster these outlets — print, broadcast and online alike. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would create a six-year “safe harbor” from antitrust laws for media companies so that they can collectively negotiate the terms under which their content is distributed online.

Reset the table. Shift the balance of power. Do it in this lame-duck Congress. Give local media a fighting chance.

This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the New York Daily News Editorial Board.

©2022 New York Daily News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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