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Local News May Disappear

Recently my Letter to the Editor to the Bernardsville News on antisemitism was taken by Google News and posted on their app. This reveals the difficulty newspapers face in today’s environment. More people might read my letter, but CNJLM (Corporation for NJH Local Media; i.e. the non-profit that runs a group of 15 publications in central NJ) is not gaining anything from it. We must keep aware of this issue because the destruction of local news and vetted news sources plays a key piece role in the attack on democracy. Certainly, it has led to extreme polarization. We should do more opinion letters on this topic. The issues:

1- The defeat of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) this week in Congress is a sorry event to say the least. JCPA would have created a tax on the links that aggregators and social media sites provide to their users. It would have forced Facebook, Google and others to pay for news content they now take from other media outlets with little attribution and no fees. The continued destruction of local and regional news will be the outcome.

2- Google and Facebook fought hard against JCPA and gained opponents of the bill after committing a combined $600 million to support news outlets, local and regional. Where did the money go? Did CNJLM receive any of this?

3- Google News, Yahoo News, Flipboard, and many other aggregators scan the news for tasty morsels and post them as links to their all-in-one sites. They take the headlines and some or all of the text, depending on the paywall that exists at the news outlet sites. Even if reader’s hit the paywall, this has not incented them to become subscribers or even notice the source. This deprives the original sites of readers and subscribers. People are just feeding on tidbits.

4- The payment for online information is a tricky market but has evolved into a dual subscriber model. Newspapers and new outlet sites are either free (less stories), but ad supported, versus premium (includes more in-depth stories) for monthly or yearly subscription fees. What direction will CNJLM take on this?

5- Research studies show that most young people get their news from their social media accounts, i.e., Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. These outlets slant the news, as they do other content, based on the individual users’ preferences and latest clicks. They are not really getting “all the news fit to print.”

6- The News Media Alliance seems to be a heavy weight in these debates, but not sure what they are doing to solve the anti-competitive landscape that has emerged in media.

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