WASHINGTON – Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate, referred to job loss in the journalism field as a “tragedy” in America and proposed investing “public resources” to help support the news business.
Past studies have shown journalism to be among the worst career choices based on average annual income.
“Now you have all these measurements attached to any piece of journalism that you produce that did not exist a generation ago. It’s like, ‘how did that piece perform? How many clicks did it get?’ And the natural incentives are for you to become a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more sensationalist with the headline or the angle,” Yang said during a newsmakers event at the National Press Club on Monday.
“And that’s just the way the industry is unfolding because the almighty market is pulling all the strings so if you want to change that in communities you have to actually put some public resources to work,” he added.
Yang noted that he is personally familiar with the struggles of working journalists and aspiring journalists so he is “passionate” about addressing the challenges facing the industry.
“You all do great work. We need to make it so you can do your jobs without fearing getting fired the next day because your stuff didn’t get enough traffic,” Yang said.
Yang said American society should “find a way to support local journalism” even if the free market isn’t supporting its existence.
“If you believe in democracy you have to believe in journalism, particularly at the local level — over 1,200 local newspapers have gone out of business in the last number of years and we all know why. They used to have classified ads and revenue from those ads and now those ads went to the cloud and Craigslist and they didn’t have a new source of revenue to replace it,” he said.
“Studies have shown if you lose your local newspaper, voting becomes more polarized because you don’t know what’s going on in your town anymore and so you just vote along party lines and you have lower levels of government accountability as a result,” he added.
Yang continued, “So that is why I proposed a local journalism fund that would help create cooperative ownership business models and in some cases partner with philanthropy to help create sustainable models of journalism in communities around the country.”
Yang also said the “problem right now is if you are a newspaper, it’s not enough for you to break even. You have to make enough money to keep your shareholders happy and in some cases, those shareholders are private equity firms and hedge funders that bought your paper and then consolidated them.”
According to Yang’s campaign website, the $1 billion fund would operate “out of the FCC” and “make grants to companies, non-profits, and local governments and libraries to help local newspapers, periodicals and websites transition to sustainability in a new era.”
“It’s that or let local journalism die, which I don’t think anyone is in favor of,” Yang said on Monday.