Guest opinion: Call on McConnell to stop the steal of local news – Winchester Sun

Guest opinion: Call on McConnell to stop the steal of local news – Winchester Sun

Guest Opinion: Challenge McConnell to stop stealing local news

Published 10:24 am Wednesday 14 December 2022

By Dean Ridings

America’s Newspapers

In the coming days, Kentucky’s own Senator Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders will have one last chance to save local journalism from the greed of Big Tech and their corporate lobbyists.

Kentucky residents should band together to get small editorial boards and ask Senator McConnell to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) in the forthcoming omnibus package.

Across the state, small Kentucky publishers employ reporters and editorial staff who dedicate their careers to truthful, quality local journalism. From public records and obituaries to sports reports, town hall meetings and county politics, we work tirelessly to follow and report on local developments because telling the story of our community is important to us. But instead of being fairly rewarded for our efforts, we struggled to make ends meet as Big Tech benefitted from our content.

As readers migrated from print to digital, they took with them the advertising dollars that once funded America’s newsroom. Google and Facebook’s dominance of the digital advertising market has largely allowed them to dictate the terms of the entire online advertising ecosystem and has allowed them to take advantage of small and local publishers like us.

Nothing is more devastating to the survival of a small newspaper than Big Tech’s monopolistic practices. Here in Kentucky, seven have already closed. Worse, these platforms churn out divisive “click-bait” headlines and feed users news and content to reinforce their existing beliefs – isolating partisan echo chambers without even a fact check. Their primary goal is to generate profits, regardless of the fact that they undermine our freedom of the press and democracy.

Our calls for change were recently answered by a bipartisan group of senators and officials who recognized big tech’s stranglehold on small newsrooms. In an effort to protect the free press — which our founding fathers believed was so important to democracy that they enshrined it in the US Constitution — they co-sponsored the JCPA — a bill that would allow struggling newspapers like ours to have a negotiate a fair price for our content with the likes of Facebook and Google.

The JCPA specifically addresses Google and Facebook’s anti-competitive practices by offering small and local news publishers a temporary, limited antitrust safe haven to negotiate with Facebook and Google for fair compensation. The policy also provides incentives and rewards for publishers who invest in their journalists and editorial staff, and grants outlets with a proven investment in their staff a larger share of the funds resulting from the negotiations.

Before Congress heads home for Christmas, congressional leaders, including Senator McConnell of Kentucky, have one last chance to traverse this lifeline for omnibus-packaged newspapers. Otherwise, it’s a big gift to Big Tech and a lump of coal to small communities across America who rely on local journalists to keep them informed.

If you care about truth and democracy, stand up for the JCPA. If you think big tech should pay for the benefits they derive from the hard work of your newspaper neighbors here in Kentucky and elsewhere, we urge you to make your voice heard and tell Senator McConnell that it’s about time is to stop local news theft.

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