From the Fall 2019 issue of California Publisher
As California’s legislature wrestled with the codification of the Dynamex decision to redefine how California’s employers classify employees vs. who is considered an independent contractor, our industry — like many others — fought hard for exemptions. As you have probably already read in the latest CNPA Legislative Bulletin, AB 5 was the legislature’s attempt to address the Dynamex ruling’s ABC test, which made it nearly impossible for businesses to use independent contractors. For us, that would include freelance journalists and newspaper carriers.
We fought hard for exemptions.
Prior to the passage and signing of AB 5, CNPA was successful in negotiating exemptions from the ABC test for freelance journalists. But the battle for newspaper carriers took not only CNPA staff, but a working group of CNPA members, newspapers throughout the state, and our allies at California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to give some relief for our newspaper carrier models as we explore new business models that comply with the law. AB 170 is the legislation, negotiated by CNPA, that provides a one-year exemption for newspaper carriers and distributors from the newly enacted law. For the next year it will allow newspapers to use a different standard, called the Borello standard, when determining whether carriers and distributors are independent contractors.
We fight because CNPA’s mission is to protect the news industry in California. But that mission has broader implications. As we fulfill that mission, we are simultaneously fighting for all Californians’ rights to access information that impacts their lives. We fight to protect journalism because journalism makes our communities better.
It is journalism like the California Reporting Project, the collective work of more than 30 news organizations, many are CNPA members, who are collaborating to tell the stories of police misconduct in the Golden State. This followed the adoption of SB 1421, legislation sponsored by CNPA, which amended the California Public Records Act to allow for the inspection of police misconduct records, including records documenting use of force, dishonesty and sexual assault.
It is other significant journalism collaborations in cities like Long Beach. CNPA member newsrooms the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Grunion Gazette and Long Beach Post, along with the Long Beach Business Journal, were brought together by the Long Beach Community Foundation to form the Long Beach Media Collaborative to collectively address major issues in their community. “Strengthening the Signal,” which examined the shortage of internet access within the city, was the first series. The second explores another disparity: the housing crisis in the city. These journalism projects aren’t just reporting on the problem. They are platforms for local solutions.
And then there is the California Dream Project, a statewide collaboration between Capital Public Radio, KQED, KPCC, KPBS and CNPA member CalMatters. It focuses on economic opportunity, quality of life and the future of the California Dream. The reporting effort shares stories about income inequality and our state’s growing wealth gap.
We fight for news publishers so they can fight for everyone else.
A few days before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 170, I attended the memorial service for Dr. William Lee, the co-founder and publisher emeritus of the Sacramento Observer. The memorial was a fitting tribute to a man who served as publisher for 52 years, longer than any other publisher in modern California history. Dr. Lee was lauded for creating a newspaper that told stories overlooked by the mainstream press, considered a “lighthouse” for its community. Dr. Lee was a fighter, like most newspaper publishers I know.
It’s the same fighting spirit I see in my father, Hardy Brown, publisher emeritus of the Black Voice News, the newspaper I publish today. I made one promise to him when I took over as publisher in 2012 and that was that he could continue to write his opinion column. He knew if he saw corruption in local government, or unfair or discriminatory practices, he would want a public forum to express the need for change. And since then he has helped shine the light on discriminatory hiring practices in one city agency and corruption in another.
CNPA will continue to fight for journalism because we know how important journalism is to the communities we serve.
CNPA President Paulette Brown-Hinds is publisher of The Black Voice News in Riverside and managing partner of BPC MediaWorks, which she founded in 2004.