From the Office of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall:
“Without this support, communities across the country risk losing one of their key sources of accurate information about what citizens need to know and do in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined 19 senators to call for financial relief for local journalism and media outlets, which are facing severe economic hardship, in any future COVID-19 relief package.
In a letter to Senate leadership, the senators warn that the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – including plummeting advertising revenue – could decimate regional and local news outlets even as communities depend on the reporting amidst the public health crisis.
Across the country, local newspapers have reduced or eliminated print editions, while other news outlets have furloughed staff.
Many New Mexico local media outlets have been forced to lay off staff, cut hours and pay, and limit publications and operations due to a drop in commercial advertising revenue. The papers are struggling amidst an advertising market dramatically impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many businesses have reduced operations and advertising and a record number of New Mexicans filed applications for unemployment benefits.
With huge drops in ad revenue local journalism outlets have few additional options to support their work.
“The current public health crisis has made the already vital role of local news even more critical,” the senators wrote. “Some of the most important guidance for families and businesses during this crisis has been highly localized. 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. During this unprecedented public health crisis, people need to have access to their trusted local news outlets for this reliable and sometimes life-saving information.
“Reliable local news and information has been critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it has become more scarce,” the senators concluded. Any future stimulus package must contain funding to support this important industry at such a critical time. Such a provision should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news.”
The letter also was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Angus King (I-Maine), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).
The full text of the letter is available here: