The Alameda Post has been a digital-only publication since we started almost two years ago (our anniversary is coming up in two weeks on the 15th!) and have learned a lot about local reporting, publishing online news and journalism in the digital age. Sadly the world of print news is in deep decline, and more and more organizations like ours are embracing the power of online news.
Next Tuesday, December 5, I have been invited to testify in front of a California Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at UCLA about “The Importance of Journalism in the Digital Age.” The hearing is being held for the committee to learn more about the state of online journalism in California.
It’s essential for me to present at this hearing and share our perspective as a hyperlocal, nonprofit news organization. Our needs and goals are so different from national publications and state-wide chains, and we need legislators to understand there is no “one size fits all” solution for online news. As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of our community, local businesses and organizations, and other benefactors to support our operations to ensure our longevity.
Now that we are the only local newsroom in Alameda, we take our responsibility seriously to be a service the community can rely on for years to come to be the source of accurate reporting and timely information that statewide and regional outlets don’t cover. 2024 is an election year, and we will be on the ground here in Alameda as the only local source of unbiased, independent information about candidates and measures to help voters make informed choices. Our role is to publish articles and stories that are valuable to this community and would otherwise be ignored.
The hearing will also help provide to background information for legislators considering the California Journalism Protection Act, something I have written about before. TL;DR – this proposed legislation would compel big tech companies to pay publishers to compensate for the revenue generated by showing ads against their content. Unfortunately, the bill would do little to nothing to support local news because the compensation would be based on clicks and impressions. Fortunately, there are other ways to save local news.
A hyperlocal news site like ours can’t compete with major state-wide and national publishers. We’d get pennies while major chains and TV networks get millions. We need more than that to sustain our operations. Worse yet, they could take their ball and go home, like Facebook has done with similar legislation in Canada. There’s no news on Facebook in Canada anymore.
I am going to speak about the damage this legislation would cause to the smallest news organizations like ours— it would bring us little or no compensation, or worse yet, cause big tech to censor our content and cut off a major source of our traffic. Local news is already suffering, as we have seen here in Alameda, and any barrier to sharing our content online would be seriously detrimental to our organization.
There are better ways to equitably distribute revenue that big tech companies receive from advertising against other publishers’ content. Legislators could consider creating a public fund that would support publications based on need and value to the communities they serve, rather than on clicks and impressions. Or consider tax credits for newsroom payrolls or small business advertisers.
More information about the hearing is available here and you can download the agenda here. if you want to follow along live, the hearing starts at 1 p.m. and will be streamed on www.senate.ca.gov. I am scheduled to speak in Section IV: The State of News and Reporting Today. The Post will publish my full remarks on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.
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