For a nation now largely confined at home, news reports – especially of local news – have become a literal lifeline for people who need to know how the COVID-19 pandemic affects their communities. Yet the men and women who report that news are now faced with threats to both their lives and their livelihoods. “Their jobs have always been challenging,” says Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild president Steve Cook. “But now there’s a very real danger as they cover this pandemic that they're going to contract a potentially mortal illness.” But the Guild, which represents some 20,000 journalists and other news workers nationally and 1,000 in the metro area, is also worried about the survival of the profession. “We're trying to save journalism, save local news,” Cook told Union City. While newspapers and online publications “are the best way to get accurate, reliable, and useful news that's vitally necessary, especially during a crisis like this,” many of the nation’s publications have been bought up by hedge funds in recent years and staff layoffs have spiked dramatically in recent weeks. “Their business model is not one that profits by bringing the news to people, it profits by stripping out the assets,” Cook said. The NewsGuild Executive Council recently unanimously passed a resolution calling for federal, state, provincial, and local governments to provide public funds to sustain news operations, as well as no layoffs, no furloughs, no buyouts or pay cuts, and recognition of workers’ rights. “The survival of journalism is at stake,” said Cook.
Click here to sign the Life-saving News Needs a Stimulus petition.
- Chris Garlock