From the Summer 2020 edition of California Publisher
By any measure, 2020 has been a year for the history books. Crisis has been stenciled on front pages across the country. In California, our industry has been on the front lines reporting the drama, tirelessly keeping communities informed, relentlessly sorting through chaos in search of truth, and bravely staying the course despite unimaginable financial odds.
My vantage point on all this has been somewhat unique. Not only am I witness to my own papers’ coverage of extraordinary events, I also have the privilege of being side by side with publishers and editors at CNPA who are working around the clock to save local journalism.
The effort is confronted by a host of pandemic-inspired ironies. Seventy-three percent of the public puts its faith in local newspapers as the most credible source of news, but the business of journalism has never been in greater peril. Reliance on local news has never been higher, yet most publications struggle to attract paid subscribers. Readership has reached modern-day peaks, but advertising budgets have cratered.
Against this backdrop, publishers have been evolving toward digital delivery. We all wish transition could be accomplished with a tap on an iPhone, but it can’t. It takes time and money, and it depends on how rapidly revenue streams will follow. Face it: Millions of readers still prefer newsprint with their morning coffee.
Many of our members have also been working to digest the cost and operating realities of new employment laws in the state. We have a working group at CNPA that is focused solely on the impact of AB 5 on papers that rely on independent contractors to deliver their products.
For them, the COVID-19 disruption made orderly transformation almost impossible. Indeed, the cost of compliance combined with the cost of the pandemic will literally threaten their existence if they cannot get more time to adapt.
The point of all this is to assure you that CNPA is front and center at this critical juncture in California journalism history. We’re working with publishers, editors, legislators, allies, and constituents to meet challenges head on.
Staff and members have joined to create a formidable team that is standing up for reporter safety, free press and legislation that yields state ad-spending equity and gives the industry more time to comply with AB 5.
I know association management has made its case for your active involvement in the movement to save journalism in our state. On behalf of publishers, I’m pleading a similar case in my space this edition.
The fight for survival of free press in the fifth largest economy in the world requires everyone’s engagement. Dozens and dozens of members have already stepped up with time, money and support services.
I’m hoping we can count on you to get involved now, too.
CNPA Chairman Simon Grieve is publisher of Southern California News Group’s weekly Gazette Newspapers in Long Beach, The Beach Reporter in Hermosa Beach and Palos Verdes Peninsula News.