Menendez, Booker call for local journalism to be included in future COVID-19 relief

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U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) are calling for local journalism and media to be included in any future COVID-19 relief packages, calling local news “critically important” during this pandemic.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

In a letter to Senate leadership, Booker and Menendez warn that the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — including plummeting advertising revenue — could decimate regional and local news outlets as communities have become increasingly reliant on their reporting.

Already some newspapers have reduced or eliminated print editions, while other news outlets, like The Record, have furloughed staff.

“The current public health crisis has made the already vital role of local news even more critical. Some of the most important guidance for families and businesses during this crisis has been highly localized,” the New Jersey senators wrote.

“Local journalism has been providing communities answers to critical questions, including information on where to get locally tested, hospital capacity, road closures, essential business hours of operation, and shelter-in-place orders. During this unprecedented public health crisis, people need to have access to their trusted local news outlets for this reliable and sometimes life-saving information.”

While private companies like Facebook have offered grant opportunities for local news, recent research has shown that they are the largest purveyor of spreading false information, as Forbes reported.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the extraordinary value of local news outlets, which have seen huge jumps in traffic since the beginning of March,”  added Senior Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge Lisa Macpherson.

“Local news stories are now among the most viewed stories in the country—even as local media fight to survive the pandemic. Without funding from the next stimulus package, we may lose one of the most important sources of information we have to navigate through this crisis.”

Earlier today, Menendez and Booker announced public health funding for two Hudson County institutions: $831,650 for the Hudson Health Center and $792,425 for the Metropolitan Family Health Network.

U.S. Reps. Albio Sires (D-8) and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10) revealed that the North Hudson Community Action Corporation will receive over $2.5 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.