3/16/2020 1:16:00 PM Manar legislation would determine the adequacy of local press, journalism
BUNKER HILL — The state would launch a new effort aimed at reversing the decline of local journalism in small and mid-sized towns in Illinois under legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).
Authored by State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford), Senate Bill 3457 creates the Local Journalism Task Force, which would conduct a study on communities underserved by local journalism and provide insight on how to preserve and restore news coverage in those areas. The task force would be made up of 12 individuals representing print and broadcast media, journalism schools, and state and local government leaders.
“Quality local news is an important element of any thriving community,” Manar said. “For generations, local newspapers have document the highs and lows of communities like mine, served as a watchful eye over local leaders, and amplified stories of rural families that would otherwise go unheard. It’s important that we recognize the value they bring and ensure their work continues.”
The study would review all aspects of local journalism, including, but not limited to the adequacy of press coverage of communities, the ratio of residents to media outlets, the impact of social media on local news, and strategies to improve local news access.
The task force would also be required to present public policy solutions to improve the sustainability of local press business models. The task force must submit the findings from the study to the governor and the General Assembly no later than one year after the law takes effect.
Sam Fisher, the President and CEO of the Illinois Press Association, says newspapers large and small, throughout Illinois, face challenges brought on by the internet and the erosion of local businesses.
“Any legislative effort to ensure the continued existence of local journalism, which is at the heart of our democracy, is something that we applaud and will support,” Fisher added. “Democracy dies in the dark, and without local newspapers the light of day becomes increasingly hard to find.”
A study by the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Media at the University of North Carolina showed Illinois has lost 157 weekly newspapers since 2004, while the United States has lost more than 1,700 altogether.