The past nine months have been uniquely trying for us all; yet as we enter the holiday season, I am reminded of all that we have to be thankful for – yes, even in 2020. It may not be the year we envisioned back on January 1, but there have been some bright, shining moments for the news industry and for the Alliance in this strange, dark year.
I’d like to start my gratitude with our amazing members. I’m thankful for the amazing courage and fortitude they’ve shown in the face of unimaginable challenges, as well as their continued faith in our mission and in the industry’s bright future. This year, our members served as essential frontline workers, reporting on the challenges faced by their communities as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country. Reporters and editors risked their health to keep their readers informed when they needed it most. Our members also risked their safety to cover protests as civil unrest sent people into the streets to call for action, and a number of journalists suffered extreme injuries in the process of bringing those stories to the public.
I’ve also seen the way my colleagues in the press have covered these challenging times, and it has been incredibly difficult – yet awe-inspiring – to read the news coverage as the year has progressed. Through the News Impact Project, our initiative to highlight the positive impact local journalism has on communities, I’ve seen how local journalists have kept their communities informed, from smart local stories on the ongoing public health crisis to thoughtful and educational articles on the 2020 elections. I’ve also watched how publishers across the media landscape covered the Black Lives Matter movement and used their platforms to advocate for Black lives.
Watching how members of the press have responded to the multitude of challenges that have beset their communities in 2020 has been truly inspiring. Representing the brave and committed members of the media is a pleasure and I’m grateful for the role of championing such an important and vital industry.
I’m also grateful this year for the growing appreciation of the news media, especially local news publishers. While we still struggle with misinformation and disinformation clouding the landscape, as providers of high-quality journalism, we have seen our audience grow in 2020 as people turned to us to stay informed during increasingly complicated times. News readership is higher than it’s ever been, and our support with civic leaders has grown as well. Local government leaders across the country deemed news reporters essential workers during the coronavirus shutdowns, allowing them to continue their vital work. We’ve also seen more leaders challenging the tech platforms. The Department of Justice filed suit against Google for violating antitrust regulations in its search and advertising practices, a stepping stone toward a more comprehensive antitrust action against the platform. At the Federal Communications Commission, discussions were held about the interpretation and effectiveness of Section 230. And the support continued in Congress, with members of both the Senate and the House releasing reports on the threats that Big Tech pose to news publishers. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which the Alliance has championed for over a year, has also gotten more bipartisan support from key leaders, leaving me optimistic that we’ll see further action on this safe harbor bill for news publisher early in the new Congress next year.
Most of all, though, I’m grateful for the work I am able to do with the support of my team at the Alliance. In the early months of the pandemic, my colleagues worked tirelessly to keep members informed of changes and challenges that would affect their ability to work and report the news. They have continued to pursue government aid and other relief to help news publishers through this difficult time. Every day I get to work with my team to support this industry is one I’m grateful for; but seeing the Alliance Board members and staff come together so quickly and seamlessly to aid our members last March reinvigorated me. And despite the curve ball 2020 has thrown us, we continued to make headway on other key priorities for our members and the news industry. Though we are facing a series of challenges no one could have envisioned, the Alliance team has taken it in stride, adapted to the new normal, and continued to do amazing work to support our members.
If you had asked me in January, I would have told you that I was ready for whatever came our way. That I was eager to continue my role as a pugilist for the media industry. I did not imagine I could feel even more strongly about the fight we’re in to save quality journalism and provide a sustainable future for real news. However, watching the Alliance team, Board and members band together and push forward through challenge after challenge has lit a new fire in me.
I don’t know what 2021 holds. I am certain it will include many of the same challenges we’ve been facing this year, as well as new ones we can’t yet conceive of. But I am also certain that the Alliance will continue to fight – harder than ever – to support quality news publishers. And I can guarantee that my team and I will lead the charge to create an even brighter future for news.
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.