Act now to save local journalism
Local journalism is essential to the fabric of our communities. Through the power of journalism, we are able to hold the powerful accountable, connect our neighborhoods, and tell stories of our times. Local journalism brings people together and shows us what’s possible. But with the passing of AB 5, local journalism is now at risk.
What is AB 5?
Assembly Bill 5 (Gonzalez), which took effect January 1, 2020, established a three-pronged test before employers can classify workers as independent contractors. The test would have required thousands of newspaper carriers, who work for a few hours in the mornings, to be reclassified as “employees.” Many newspapers will be unable to shoulder these costs and will shut down operations, drastically curtail their features, or will be forced to consider price increases.
In recognition of the impact on newspapers and the vital role that papers play in communities, last year newspapers were granted a one-year exemption to the “independent contractor” test for newspaper carriers. However, the exemption ends on December 31, 2020 — which means the future of newspapers, local journalism, and access to community news is at stake.
Help make the newspaper exemption permanent. Please show your support for local journalism by adding your name here in support of the exemption.
What’s at stake?
Newspapers play a vital role for residents throughout California communities. The articles and editorials keep communities informed on important local issues, news, and events and helps facilitate awareness and civic engagement. Despite the societal value that newspapers bring to the neighborhood, many have had to shut down due to unsought financial burdens. These devastating impacts to the industry continue to worsen with the passing of AB 5. They include:
- Decline in news coverage. The loss of revenue from print newspaper circulation will lead to limited coverage of local news in print and online outlets.
- Fewer journalists. The revenue generated from newspaper deliveries helps support the wages of journalists and costs of digital content.
- Fewer investigations into corruption. With fewer journalists, investigative stories that keep the powerful accountable will be minimal.
- Shutdown of small ethnic local papers. The industry has already downscaled tremendously due to financial burdens and the loss of newspaper carriers only makes matters worse. News publishers will not be able to bear the costs and small ethnic local papers may even be forced out of business.
- Eliminate circulation in rural areas and underserved communities. AB 5 will reduce print newspaper circulation among hard-to-reach communities. These residents will no longer be able to receive news and information because the routes will become too costly for news publishers to manage.
- Higher delivery costs. Newspapers already face extreme financial stress. Even if publishers are able to continue newspaper deliveries, the cost will increase significantly.
- Loss of specialized news features. News publishers will be forced to reallocate funds from different parts of the business to stay afloat. This will result in the elimination of added features (such as games, crossword puzzles, and comics) that subscribers enjoy.
- Click here to add your name to the list of Californians supporting the newspaper carrier exemption to preserve local journalism.
- Post your support on social media and tag your legislator using the hashtag #SupportCommunityPapers
In a world without news ...
The Journal of Law, Economics and Organization study identified a multitude of blows to civic health when newspapers close — from declining citizen engagement to increased corruption and declining government performance.
One analysis of cities with steep declines in newsroom staff found less competition in mayoral races. Fewer people bothered to run and the authors found some evidence that people were less inclined to vote.
A Brookings Institution paper found that without a local newspaper, municipal borrowing costs rose by 5 to 11 basis points (about 0.20% to 0.10%), costing the average local government an additional $650,000 per bond issue. Cost for local citizens also increases due to a greater risk of mismanaged projects that are backed by local taxes and fees.
A 2018 study found that levels of toxic emissions spewed by local plants were reduced by 29 percent when they were covered by local newspapers.
Support local newspapers!
Add your name to the growing list of supporters of local newspapers. The form below provides an option to include your assemblymember and senator. If you do not know who your current representatives are, you can search for them using your address.