October 7–13 is National Newspaper Week. It serves as a wonderful reminder of the importance and strength of our industry. It is also a great time to reflect on what we have overcome and where we must go next.
2018 has been a hard year for journalism. There is a toxic sentiment against the media. The flames of this anger are stoked by President Trump when he uses dangerous rhetoric, calling the media “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” That anger bore out in tragedies for our news media family when, in June, five staff members of Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper were killed in a shooting. Later, in August, the FBI arrested a man who was making bomb threats to the Boston Globe. Meanwhile, studies found that 70 percent of female journalists have experienced multiple forms of harassment, including death threats and physical attacks.
It is a tough time to be a reporter, but their role is more important now than ever. In America, journalists serve as public watchdogs, holding government, corporate, union and other powerful officials accountable for their actions. They are the eyes and ears of our democracy – which we need now more than ever – and we will do everything in our power to protect their rights.
In addition to threats against reporters, the industry continues to face financial hardships. This year, we were hit with unwarranted, excessive newsprint tariffs that cost publishers millions of dollars. Fortunately, after a long battle, the ITC reversed the tariffs in August, but for many, the damage was already done. And we are still fighting for every reader and every dollar of ad revenue as we try to protect our market share in a digital world dominated by the tech duopoly.
But it’s not all bad news. We’ve seen some of the strongest journalism ever published in 2018. We saw unprecedented collaboration when over 450 publishers banded together to run editorials condemning the attacks on the press, garnering national attention. We saw award-winning stories and newsroom partnerships that shed light on sexual harassment, political issues, the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and more. Report for America has created a vibrant force of reporters to dispatch to local newsrooms, with the goal of sustaining journalism in local communities.
Outside of the newsroom, we saw Twitter take a step in recognizing the importance of news, resulting in new policies regarding how it tags political advertising. And Congress held hearings about the dangers of fake news, highlighting points our industry has been making for years.
There is a long and bumpy road ahead. Journalists will continue to face public mistrust, fight misinformation with the November midterm elections and be forced to compete with the platforms for visibility.
While it is easy to get bogged down in the bad news, journalism remains an important tenet of democracy and a valuable public service.
I am incredibly proud to represent such an important, hardworking industry, from the journalists reporting the news to the newspaper carriers delivering it to readers every day (who we celebrate on International Newspaper Carrier Day on October 13) and I am thankful for everything they do.
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David Chavern is former President & CEO of the News/Media Alliance. Chavern has 30 years of experience in executive strategic and operational roles. Prior to the Alliance, he completed a decade-long tenure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.