“Over 2,000 local newspapers have gone out of print since 2004,” Yang tweeted. “That’s terrible for democracy and local government. We should encourage new models of journalism that include philanthropy, cooperative ownership, town libraries and public-private partnerships.”
The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur continued to suggest that there would be more potential for communities to support local journalism if it was “breakeven” and did not require “double-digit profit margins every period.”
Per Yang’s policy page, local journalism must be recognized as a “vital public function” and move from the current for-profit model to a nonprofit model that is backed by citizens, government, local institutions, and philanthropy. To make the transition, he proposes a $1 billion Local Journalism Fund that operates out of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The goal of this fund would be to provide grants of between $25,000 and $250,000 in value to local governments, nonprofits, companies, and libraries to support newspapers, websites, and periodicals as they make the transition to “sustainability in a new era.” Yang says that such grants would be divided evenly among states based on each state’s population.
The Democratic candidate added that journalism is a “vital function” for all communities, claiming that the industry is essential for understanding local politics and making informed decisions.
“I’m confident that most small towns and cities will be able to support a local website or paper – we just need to support their transition to a new model that supplements advertising and subscription fees with local institutional and citizen support.”
During a newsmakers’ event at the National Press Club in October, the presidential candidate said he is “passionate” about addressing the challenges facing the journalism industry, PJ Media reported. Yang expressed his belief that journalists do “great work” and touched on the new measurements attached to the profession that did not exist years ago.
At the same event, Yang highlighted research suggesting that losing a local newspaper causes increased polarization of voting because people have less understanding of what’s going on in their community. This, he explained, pushes them to vote along party lines, with the polarization resulting in a decrease in government accountability.
Yang also echoed his recent Twitter comments and addressed the for-profit nature of many local newspapers, which he claims creates pressure to keep shareholders happy. He added that such shareholders are sometimes private equity firms and hedge funders that purchase newspapers and consolidate them.