For centuries, citizens have turned to their local news for the latest breaking and investigative news, and to learn about hot-button issues that affect their communities. As we celebrate Free Speech Week, a nonpartisan, non-ideological event designed to raise awareness and celebrate the importance of free speech and a free press in the United States, we highlight the important role that local media, who promote these freedoms, play in every local community.
Through news media, citizens can express themselves and advocate for their causes, whether they be political, religious or just personally meaningful to us; share our thoughts and ideas; petition the government; and plan assemblies. Local journalism can be our own personal amplifier for sharing our unique perspectives, as well as a wider lens through which to view and engage with our communities.
But beyond offering a means for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, news media also help protect those rights: through their role as government watchdogs. They are often the first to report when government officials try to overstep their bounds and hinder Americans’ right to information, made available through freedom of the press. Journalists work to keep the legislative process transparent and hold government officials accountable. Perhaps because of our prominent mention in the Constitution, news media are uniquely committed to their pursuit of the truth.
But the future of journalism and free speech is in jeopardy. Currently, news publishers are finding themselves without a way to recoup their investment in quality news. Big Tech platforms do not fairly compensate news publishers for their use of news content, making it increasingly difficult for publishers to reinvest in journalism.
The News/Media Alliance has called for small and local news publishers to be granted an antitrust safe harbor to be able to come together to negotiate for better business terms with the platforms. This is the best solution to correcting the imbalance in the digital ecosystem and ensuring a sustainable future for digital news. We are encouraged that a bill that would do just that – the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act (JCPA), which has bipartisan support in the House and Senate – was voted out of committee in the Senate in September. The JCPA, through ensuring the sustainability of local news publishers through payment from the tech platforms, helps ensure our ongoing freedoms of speech and the press are protected.
News media have made our democracy stronger, our citizenry more informed and engaged, and our Constitutional rights secure and strong. As we mark Free Speech Week, we ask that anyone who relies on news for their information — whether in print or online (and if you get your news on social media, it’s most likely still from a news publisher) — to ask Congress to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. Visit JCPABill.com for more information.
Visit our Free Speech Week page for more related articles and resources.
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.