California Congressman Mark DeSaulnier has criticized Silicon Valley's largest tech companies for massive job losses among journalists, which has harmed local communities and affected the health of our democracy.
DeSaulnier represents the 11th District in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, which includes Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley. He spoke on a panel in San Francisco, organized by the Washington, DC-based Save Journalism Project, which was founded by two laid-off reporters: Laura Bassett from Huffpost and John Stanton from Buzzfeed.
"Not that long ago, the Bay Area was home to over 1,500 journalists, but now there are less than 300 serving roughly seven million people," said DeSaulnier. "During a time when fact and accountability are under constant attack, today's conversation about ways to preserve and protect local news and high-quality journalism is critical to the health of our democracy."
The Save Journalism Project estimates that at least 2,400 journalism jobs were lost at US newsrooms just in the first three months of this year. The blame is placed mostly on Facebook and Google, which dominate online and mobile advertising. Newsrooms are forced to cutback jobs as their advertising revenues continue to decline.
"Big Tech is decimating journalism," said Laura Bassett, co-founder of the Save Journalism Project. "Facebook, Google, and Big Tech have consumed the digital landscape and continue to threaten local and national journalism. We need our elected officials to weigh in, to reign in big tech, and to save the journalism industry before this goes any further."
Co-founder John Stanton noted the irony that the panel discussion was streamed live on Facebook to reach a broad audience.
"Facebook and Google have too much power. Together, they control the landscape, the audience, and the content. I saw this first hand at BuzzFeed, when Facebook, without notice, changed its algorithm, resulting in huge viewership and financial losses for the company. As more and more local and national news outlets feel the death grip of Big Tech, we need Congress to step in and save journalism."
Neil Chase, CEO of CalMatters and the former Executive Editor of Bay Area News Group, said, "If we can't solve it here, we can't hope to help the places across America that don't have the technology and financial resources that are available in a place like this."
The activist group says there is bipartisan support growing in Congress for some action to save further journalism jobs. However, what that action could be is not clear.