The big media payback

The giant aluminum globe in the lobby of the LA Times building downtown, Hugo Ballin murals in the background; 1930s visions of peace and prosperity
Ilpo's Sojourn [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Today: k.e. harloe, a freelance writer based in New York, author of the newsletter media x capital and the column Mediaquake.

Issue No. 108

Pay the Journalists for the Journalism
k.e. harloe

Pay the Journalists for the Journalism

by k.e. harloe

Journalism, which has been collapsing for the last three decades as a result of Big Tech siphoning off its advertising revenues, is fighting back. This spring, California state legislators introduced two bills aimed at funneling some of that money back. A few days ago, Assembly Bill 886, aka the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), advanced out of committee for consideration by the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Yesterday, the Senate voted to advance the second bill, Senate Bill 1327, as well.

The CJPA would require megaplatforms like Google and Meta (specifically, companies with annual net sales or market capitalization of $550 billion, or over a billion active monthly users) to pay news providers. This bill in particular has divided labor unions, grassroots organizers, ethnic and community media organizations, and civic media advocates for all kinds of reasons, from fear of misadministration to the potential for enabling even worse clickbait than we have now. The second bill, SB-1327, would fund local journalism via a new “data extraction migration tax” on tech platforms making more than $2.5 billion annually.  

You’ll be amazed to hear that Google opposes all of this. This spring, the company announced that, due to the CJPA, it simply had no choice but to block stories from California news publishers. If you want a good laugh, read this Google blog post, wherein VP Jaffer Zaidi argues that the company opposes the CJPA out of an abiding solidarity with “small publishers,” and a concern that the legislation might prop up “hedge fund” media owners, “media conglomerates,” annnnnd…companies that exercise too much control over the flow of public information. 

The California bills are representative of a long-running fight over not only media policy, but the future of the country’s media system writ large. In the meantime, local news across California continues to disintegrate at breakneck speed. I got together with my pal Matt Tinoco, journalist and co-founder of the new, independent local newsroom, LA Public Press, to talk about the highs and lows of it all. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

k.e. harloe: Why did you start LA Public Press and what are you all up to over there? 

Matt Tinoco: Almost everyone on our team is from Los Angeles, including me; I’m a fourth generation Angeleno. We care very deeply about our home and about keeping our neighbors informed. At LA Public Press, we’re always asking: How do we self-organize to make a more just society?

Southern California has 18 million people in it. That’s bigger than most U.S. states. We’re trying to figure out how to take what are actually old news traditions and map them onto a big, heterogeneous digital ecosystem.

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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