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LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, Free Press Action Co-CEO Jessica J. González testified about California legislation that would create a $50-million fund to support local journalism. 

The proposed legislation (CA SB-911) would fund the California Board to Fund Public Interest Media. The California Board shares similarities with New Jersey’s Civic Information Consortium, which distributes public funds to innovative news-and-information projects throughout the state. Free Press Action helped conceive, organize support for and pass the New Jersey bill that created the consortium.

California’s Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted the legislation out of committee on Tuesday. The state’s Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the bill next.

“We’re excited about California’s proposed $50-million investment in public media,” González testified on Tuesday. “If SB-911 passes, California would join the forefront of transformative state-level solutions to the ongoing crisis in local journalism.

“Over the past 15 years, the U.S. has lost over half the newspaper reporters covering state and local beats. California has lost 25 percent of its newspapers and total news circulation has dropped by 50 percent. The decimation of local news has disproportionately harmed the poor, people of color, rural communities and immigrants.

“As a mom raising children in California, I struggled to find reliable information when my kids returned to in-person education during the pandemic. There was only one source of information: the school district itself, with the school board, principals and teachers often sharing conflicting reports. There was no independent reporting on whether rooms were properly ventilated or if the district was following state and local protocols.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on local government actors — whether those be school boards, law enforcement, air-quality boards or city councils — as our sole sources of information. And it’s obvious that corporate media will not save us — for-profit news outlets aren’t always reliable providers of good local journalism. And even as local-TV stations make money, they continue to lay off local reporters.

“Public investment, such as the type of funding that SB-911 proposes, is a way to confront the collapse of local media and the rise of disinformation. This bill could not only invigorate the civic life of Californians but serve as an innovative model for other states to adopt.

“In particular, Free Press Action strongly favors the bill’s goals to support ethnic and community journalism, and I look forward to working with state lawmakers on enhancing these provisions.”


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