Although it’s a little early for a Thanksgiving column, I’d like to express gratitude for the many people who have written and called to support our Save the Free Press initiative this year.
The feedback and encouragement helped shape a new Save the Free Press web site launched this week.
The site is intended to inform people about the journalism crisis and efforts to sustain and restore America’s local, independent press system.
With a cornucopia of reports, news stories, commentary and other information, the site will hopefully be a resource for educators and those looking to learn more about the importance of the local press, the challenges it faces and what’s being done to save it.
As the initiative’s editor, I’m also hoping the web site will help answer questions people have about the topic.
One of the most frequent questions is, how can we help? This support and generosity is beautiful and much appreciated. It also builds hope that solutions will be found, because so many people understand the importance of local news coverage and want to be sure it continues.
To make answering that question easy, the web site has links to subscribe to The Seattle Times, sign up for our free Voices for a Free Press newsletter and share the web site via email or social media.
Also included is a link to donate to the Investigative Journalism Fund, a tax-deductible, community-supported program of The Times and the Seattle Foundation.
More than $1.5 million has been donated so far to help build one of the nation’s largest local investigative teams.
The Times, one of the few remaining family owned metro dailies, has been exploring new ways to fund its journalism. Over the last decade it’s had success with a hybrid approach. The newsroom is now reinforced with teams of reporters and editors focused on issues like education and mental health, supported by philanthropy.
Even the largest papers are now pursuing similar approaches as the industry evolves and looks for ways to stop a downward spiral that reduced newspaper newsrooms overall by around 60% since 2008.
Most of those losses and newspaper closures are outside of metro areas, in smaller towns and rural areas, leaving many communities with little to no local news coverage. The web site includes reports and resources about this situation, plus links to other media and nonprofit organizations working to protect the free press in the U.S. and globally.
To prevent further losses and closures, our initiative also advocates for federal intervention.
That includes temporary supports, such as tax credits to incentivize retaining and hiring local journalists, and longer-term solutions like antitrust reform and enforcement to end unfair competition by large-tech platforms.
This leads to another frequent question, about why we’d advocate for government involvement. The short answer is that the U.S. has supported the press since the nation was founded, and it can be done in ways that preserve press freedom and independence.
The tax credits, for instance, are structured so they don’t preference particular news outlets and have no influence on what stories are reported. They are also temporary and won’t make news organizations dependent on the government.
“It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up, to help them find a sustainable path forward,” U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Yakima Valley Republican co-sponsoring the policy, told me in June.
It’s still a good question and worth further discussion. To start, though, consider reading the fuller explanation of America’s free press history on our new Save the Free Press web site.
There’s also a link to contact us and provide feedback. Please keep reading, asking questions and making suggestions, including additional material that would be helpful to see on the web site.
Also, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.