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 this summer when officials with the state of New Jersey announced the state will invest $2 million in local journalism.

On July 10 at 2 p.m. at the Massachusetts state house, there will be a hearing for a similar initiative in that state. Details are at:

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H181

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 outlets 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. Mike Rispoli works at Free Press. In a phone interview on July 9 he told the Valley Post one of his co-workers will speak at the July 10 hearing. The commission that would oversee funding for local journalism from the state of Massachusetts “should include people from new, entrepreneurial non-profit news outlets. Now it's mostly people from legacy media and Harvard professors. It also should have community activists from around the state who know how the media can serve them better. Finally, the legislature should hold hearings about this bill around the state, not just at the statehouse.”

Another group that will have at least one worker speaking in favor of public funding for journalism at the hearing has a web site at www.binjOnline.com.

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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