NewsGuild: Life-saving News Needs a Stimulus

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The NewsGuild-CWA is urging Congress to adopt provisions in its next stimulus package that will protect life-saving news operations from devastation. As businesses close due to COVID-19 restrictions, advertising revenue has plummeted, threatening news outlets with extinction.

To address the crisis, The NewsGuild Executive Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for federal, state, and local governments to provide public funds and incentives to sustain news operations.

“Journalists are working on never-ending deadlines and risking their own health to provide life-saving information to a nation sheltering in place,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said. “News is an essential service and our country can’t afford to lose it during this pandemic.”

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many newsrooms had been reduced to skeletal staffs and some had disappeared altogether, due to declining ad revenue, corporate consolidations and asset-stripping by vulture capitalists.

On Monday, Gannett, the country’s biggest newspaper chain, announced plans to furlough employees for one week each month, which would immediately reduce reporting capacity by 25 percent in communities across the country. Lee Enterprises, another large news chain, followed suit on Tuesday, announcing furloughs and pay cuts. Several alt-weeklies have suspended operations, and many publications are laying off workers.

“We cannot stand by and let news organizations in our communities die,” Schleuss said. “Public stimulus funds are the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the newsorganizations people rely on.” 

The Guild’s recommendations include acknowledgement that accurate, reliable journalism is an essential service, public financing; job protections such as a prohibition against layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and buyouts so that journalists can report the news, and no-interest loans from the Small Business Administration for news start-ups, including nonprofits and employee-owned co-ops.


Under the NewsGuild’s proposal, public support for news-gathering operations would come with strings attached: Publications would be required to remain independent from partisan influence; they would be required to demonstrate financial need, and would be prohibited from using public money for executive bonuses, dividends, stock buybacks or golden parachutes.

“We depend on journalists to cover press conferences, walk our streets, tell us where the testing centers are, report on hospital capacity and how many of our neighbors have already died,” Schleuss said. “They’re face to face with our communities to tell their stories during this news story: the largest of our lifetime.”

NewsGuild-CWA also launched a petition for community support for the recommendations.


“Our country needs a strong free and independent press to provide reliable information and hold our leaders accountable,” Schleuss continued. “It’s urgent that we take action to protect it.”

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