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Saving Local News Is Goal Of East Bay Congressman

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
April 02, 2019 - 1:48 pm

With newspapers folding across the country and media companies laying off journalists, a Bay Area congressman is speaking up about the decline of the industry.

On Tuesday, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) will introduce a resolution that recognizes the importance of local news. 

Since 2004, 1,800 newspapers have gone out of business and there are 45 percent fewer working reporters and editors, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited by DeSaulnier. 

"Most Americans are kind of familiar with democracy at the local levels. So when somebody is not writing on that in their community, they're not learning about that," said DeSaulnier. "They learn it from 24/7 news and from social media, which I don't think is healthy."

When DeSaulnier was elected to Concord's city council 30 years ago, he recalled seeing a reporter in the front row every day. 

"That was important," he said on KCBS Radio. "He was letting us know that the public had a voice there."

It was once common to see reporters covering school boards and planning commissions meetings, but no more. The Bay Area now has 300 working newspaper journalists, down from 1,500 at its maximum, according to DeSaulnier. 

President Trump's verbal attacks on the news media as "fake news" and the "enemy of the people" are well documented. Trump had "insulted or criticized journalists and outlets, or condemned and denigrated the news media as a whole" in 11 percent of his tweets since becoming president, according to a January report by the Committee to Protect Journalists

DeSaulnier said that he will be looking at what the federal government can do to support local news coverage.