Facebook does not have a newsroom. Google does not have a stable of reporters ready to cover breaking news.
So if someone is recounting a news story they read on social media, more likely than not it's coming from a "legacy media" outlet like The Times of Northwest Indiana.
It's no secret that newsrooms at legacy media outlets are shrinking. Less and less people are willing to pay for their news. That along with a drop in advertising revenue shrinks profit margins.
That's why the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 is so important.
The summary on Congress.gov lays out its aim: This bill creates a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print, broadcast, or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors (e.g., social media companies) regarding the terms on which the news companies' content may be distributed by online content distributors.
See along with allowing the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, these social media behemoths reap the financial gain from the work news outlets put in.
This bill should be a bipartisan slam dunk. Unfortunately it is not.
It has languished in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
That subcommittee has no local representation.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, of Noblesville, represents Indiana's 5th congressional district which covers a portion of Central Indiana north of Indianapolis. She serves on the subcommittee.
While this bill makes sense as a way for traditional media outlets to more equitably profit off their own work, it's tough to gain traction on anything that helps "mainstream media."
Much of that is due to a growing mistrust and open disdain toward the media by many. A lot of it is political rhetoric. Though it would be misguided to not admit journalism has had some stumbles of its own.
Journalists aren't perfect. Like any profession, there are some bad actors.
But by and large, media outlets are filled with people who are just trying to get information to their readers.
This is especially true for local newspapers. The media is often lumped together as a monolith. The truth is local dailies like The Times are different from The New York Times. Both in their objective and scope and operation. Print news is different than radio and television.
Places like The Times covers news and events that will fall through the cracks if print media is allowed to wither and die.
TV stations from Chicago aren't going to start covering school boards, city councils or Friday night's big football games. Online blogs run by citizen journalists are often well-intentioned but typically lack the organization and institutional knowledge to succeed. They also are almost never profitable.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act isn't a handout to legacy media. It allows news organizations a chance to negotiate fair deals with these social media giants.
These companies are making money hand over first largely on the work of others.
Journalists speak truth to power. Whether that be a police chief or city council. Without legacy media outlets around to put checks on that power, we'll all be worse off.