Democratic senators say local news outlets should receive coronavirus stimulus money

The funding in the bill 'should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news,' the senators said

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Sen. Amy Klochuhar
Sen. Amy Klochuhar
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Updated: April 10, 2020 - 6:22pm

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A group of Democratic senators wants local news outlets to receive coronavirus stimulus money in "any future coronavirus relief package" that the Senate passes.

"Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic," the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

"For over a decade, there has been a steady succession of local outlets closing down, reporters being laid off, production schedules cut, and resources tightened as the growth of social media and technology platforms has concentrated critical advertising revenue in the hands of a few. But the current public health crisis has made this problem worse," read the letter.

The senators wrote that "local journalism has been providing communities answers to critical questions, including information on where to get locally tested, hospital capacity, road closures, essential business hours of operation, and shelter-in-place orders."

Recent media reports indicate that local news organizations, especially newspapers, are "slashing staff and publishing less frequently as the already-battered businesses try to weather the COVID-19 storm."

According to the letter, some "local papers and local broadcasters have lost even more of the advertising revenue they rely on from these businesses" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Communities across the country have seen the further decimation of this important industry as local publications have stopped printing and laid off staff in the last few weeks," the letter read.

The Democratic members urged Senate leaders to include "funding to support this important industry at such a critical time" in the next coronavirus relief package and said the "provision should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news."

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $75 million “for stabilization grants to maintain programming services and to preserve small and rural public telecommunication stations” in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill called the CARES Act that passed in March.

Former presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) signed the letter along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). 

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