On May 13, 2020

Support of local journalism is imperative

Dear Editor,

The following is a letter that U.S. Rep. Peter Welch wrote to Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy on May 8.

I write today to request that the next Covid-19 legislative package include funding to support local journalism and media. This support is essential to ensure that our communities continue to have access to local, accurate information about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our local news outlets have been struggling to keep the lights on in their newsrooms before and during this crisis. This pandemic has exacerbated the problems that existed, and many outlets are searching for any assistance to help maintain their operations. Despite this, our local media outlets have shown their resiliency by finding creative ways to continue to report on critically important stories. The pandemic has required that the economy be intentionally slowed to respond to the public health emergency, which has decreased or eliminated the advertising budgets of local businesses. The dramatic decrease of advertising has devastated the budgets of our local news outlets, who depend on advertising dollars. We have seen the impact of the slowdown in our news coverage when the Waterbury Record published its last issue in March and more than ten other Vermont outlets announced that they were suspending publication, or furloughing or laying off staff.

Right now, as fake news remains a threat online, we need these local media outlets more than ever. The World Health Organization identified that the current worldwide health pandemic has led to a “massive infodemic” – the spread of misinformation spinning out of control. The best way to defeat these false stories is to have more information from trusted sources in our communities, such as our local newspapers, radio and television outlets.

Additionally, throughout this pandemic local news outlets have provided accurate, local information on assistance that can help their readers during this difficult time. They help spread the word on food distribution schedules, reusable mask distribution locations, and other critical information daily.

Creating a specific fund or program to encourage and support the sustainability of local, community-based news is essential. Some Vermont communities are on the brink of finding themselves in a “news desert,” with few or any local news sources.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to working with you on this proposal.

Sincerely,

Peter Welch, member of Congress

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