A Win for Local Journalism

The following local newspapers are owned by out-of-state corporations: Hampshire Gazette, Amherst Bulletin, Brattleboro Reformer, Springfield Republican, Greenfield Recorder, and Valley Advocate. The corporations that own these newspapers are run undemocratically. Other news organizations are run democratically. A group in Northampton that works nationally to improve local journalism had a major victory on July 1 when the governor of New Jersey signed a law that will invest $5 million a year in local journalism.

The Northampton group is Free Press. Two of the founders of Free Press, Robert McChesney and John Nichols, wrote a cover story for The Nation magazine proposing a way to increase government funding for journalism while preventing government control of journalism. Everyone who lives in the USA would get a $300 annual voucher to donate to the news outlet(s) of their choice. This would bring the USA closer to Europe's per capita amount spent by the government on journalism.

Free Press has a web site at www.FreePress.net. The group is working on replicating its New Jersey victory in other states.

Pacifica Radio owns five FM stations, each with powerful transmitters, in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Houston, and the San Francisco area. The network airs local news programs and the popular daily national and world news program “Democracy Now!” Anyone who donates $35 or volunteers four hours a year, can vote for delegates who in turn elect Pacifica’s board of directors. Pacifica rejects advertising and the kind of corporate "underwriting messages" that NPR relies on. NPR is run undemocratically.

A story from California shows why local, non-corporate journalism is important.

No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate in a third of the USA's. In December 2014, in Oakland, California, anti-prison activists held a rally outside a meeting of the county legislature. They were asking the Alameda county board of supervisors to invest $17 million a year in programs to keep people out of prison by creating jobs for people just getting out of prison. The board rejected the activists’ request. The activists kept returning to the board’s meetings and speaking out during the public comment period. But the board kept rejecting their request. On March 4, 2015, the activists returned to a county board meeting. This time they were ready to get arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. They interrupted the meeting by singing songs from the civil rights movement. The board quickly ended the meeting. Soon, the activists won. They got the $17 million.

There are two main newspapers in Oakland, the Oakland Tribune and the East Bay Express. The Tribune is owned by a corporation in Colorado that owns dozens of other newspapers around the nation. The East Bay Express is owned by a group of local people in Oakland.

There are several radio and TV stations that cover Oakland news. One of them is KPFA, a non-profit radio station whose board of directors is elected by anyone who donates $35 a year or volunteers four hours a year. KPFA rejects the corporate money that NPR stations rely on.

Darris Young was the main organizer of the protests at the Alameda county board of supervisors meeting. He was a prisoner in California in 2008. While he was in prison, he organized a strike by the prisoners. They refused to do their jobs until they got more recreation time. They won. Now he is out of prison. He works for the Ella Baker Center in Oakland as a community organizer. The Valley Post spoke with him in 2015.

Young said the East Bay Express provided coverage that helped turn out people for the protest in March. He said the Tribune did not. KPFA has covered his group’s work better than the commercial radio and TV stations.

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