The decline of local journalism directly jeopardizes American democracy: civic engagement is declining, political polarization is increasing, and public trust in news and information is plummeting.
According to data from The Washington Post, about a quarter of local newspapers closed their doors between 2005 and 2020. In 2020, only one-third of U.S. counties had a local newspaper — a number that has likely declined even further since this data was collected, given the economic hardships caused by the pandemic for local news outlets.
While local newspapers struggle to remain economically viable, Big Tech monopolies like Alphabet and Meta – through sites like Google News and Facebook News – have come to dominate the news and publishing industry by expropriating the work of these local operators through these news aggregator sites.
After conducting several polls on the subject over the past few months — nationally in early April and statewide in Louisiana and Colorado in late May — it is clear that the American people are concerned about this threat to local journalism and united in their desire to curb Big Tech’s control over news and publications.
In April, our national poll found that Americans in general were concerned that Big Tech companies hold too much power over the news and publishing industries (79%) and manipulate these industries for their own benefit (78%).
Two months later, roughly the same proportion of Colorado and Louisianans — about three-quarters — expressed concern that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries and that these monopolies are manipulating those industries for their own benefit.
This is clearly a hot-button problem for Americans. The fact that my company’s polls — commissioned by the News Media Alliance — were conducted in Colorado and Louisiana nearly two months after the national poll — and that at the same time, other national crises such as inflation, rising crime, and the pandemic metastasized – is indicative of the momentum behind this problem.
Importantly, three-quarters of respondents in all three surveys — nationally in April and in Colorado and Louisiana at the end of May — also agreed that “Big Tech’s monopoly over news and publishing is a threat to the free press and unfair to publishers. , especially to small and local outlets.”
In a similar vein, there is a widespread and persistent belief—among Americans (83%), Coloradoans (86%) and Louisianans (79%)—that the survival of local journalism is important.
Our poll found a notable discrepancy that exists in terms of who the public believes benefits from the content on news aggregator sites and who should benefit. In all three studies, two-thirds of respondents said the author or publication responsible for the story should benefit the most, but a similar proportion said the search engine or social media platform benefits the most.
The public is not only concerned about the future of local news and concerned about the manipulation of the news and publishing by Big Tech, but broadly supports Congress acting to save local journalism by reining in Big Tech to keep.
Indeed, respondents in all three surveys broadly agreed with a statement along these lines — including 81% of Americans, 77% of Coloradoans, and 72% of Louisianans — in particular: “Congress must be Big Keep tech in check by implementing reforms that make the publishing industry fairer to smaller media entities and local operators.”
In terms of specific bills Congress can act on, Americans broadly support The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), a bipartisan bill that allows small news publishers to negotiate fair terms for Big Tech’s use of their content. -businesses.
Congress taking steps to approve the JCPA was backed by a strong majority of both Coloradoans (69%) and Louisianans (64%) at the end of May and a similar proportion of Americans (70%) when the question was asked in early April. .
Furthermore, about two-thirds of respondents in all three surveys believed it was important for Congress to approve the JCPA, and even stronger majorities agreed that “elected officials who oppose the JCPA are Big Tech companies.” continue to manipulate the news and publishing sectors for their own benefit, leaving small and local publishers powerless.”Notably, all three groups surveyed also indicated that a political candidate’s support for the JCPA could affect their vote in an election. By a margin of about four to one, Americans polled in April — and comparable proportions of Coloradoans and Louisianans polled in May — were more likely than less likely to support political candidates for Congress who support the JCPA.
Ultimately, local journalism — which is necessary to maintain an active and informed citizen — has provided a livelihood as the world of news and information has changed dramatically over the past few decades, but United States laws have caught up. not caught up yet. The public recognizes the threats and consequences of this inaction and is now demanding change.
Congress has a mandate from the public to stop allowing Big Tech companies to manipulate the market without consequences by enacting the JCPA into law – otherwise local journalism may cease to exist.
Douglas Schoen is a political advisor.