Legislation is crucial to the future of local journalism in North Dakota

What I’m looking for in my Google search is a news source that I trust. And that’s almost always a newspaper.

Sarah Elmquist Squires
Sarah Elmquist Squires

By Sarah Elmquist Squires, executive director, North Dakota Newspaper Association

Here is how I often do it:

I’m scrolling on Facebook, and I see a tidbit of news. Sometimes it’s a link to a trusted news site, sometimes it’s not a trusted news site. Sometimes it’s a meme, or a photo of something that looks like a headline. Before I share anything, I need to know it’s true. So I google it. What I’m looking for in my Google search is a news source that I trust. And that’s almost always a newspaper.

Google and Facebook rely on newspapers and news media in general. They have become the great middle men in the way that we consume news, from the hyper local fire on your rural block to the back and forth of national discord. The trouble is, they’ve been syphoning off the advertising revenue that supports the local news they rely on. The snake eats its tail.


These platforms have gotten bigger and bigger. By 2018, Google and Facebook had captured almost four times the revenue as the entire U.S. news media (including TV, print and digital), and have grown exponentially since. They currently encompass 80% of digital ad spending and a whopping 45% of all advertising spending in the country. While Google and Facebook are willing to pay to license things like music, they refuse to similarly pay for journalism content. The results have been devastating to newsrooms across the U.S.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act aims to level the playing field, especially for local journalism. The federal legislation would allow news media to band together to negotiate with Facebook and Google collectively with a safe harbor from anti-trust laws. It’s especially difficult for small, independent publishers to negotiate with these Big Tech giants, and this legislation would ensure that the creators of journalism content – all of them – are at the table and on equal footing.

This past year has been an incredibly difficult time for every industry and every family. Finding the truth in news you can trust, especially local news, has proven to be more important than ever before. Yet, even as the importance of local journalism has become more and more apparent, the weight of Big Tech on newsrooms has become stifling: more than 2,000 newspapers across the U.S. have shuttered since 2004.

Australia recently forged a path when its news media negotiated a similar deal with Facebook. During the debate over that country’s legislation, Facebook removed news from Australians’ Facebook feeds. During that short news blackout, we saw what can happen when we lose access to real journalism and the truth: in just two days, Australian news feeds were quickly filled with fake news and misinformation. It was a glimpse of a future we must fight against.

The legislation passed in Australia and now the U.S. is on its way to help local newsrooms stand on equal footing with Big Tech giants to find reasonable compensation for their content. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is a crucial step to preserve local news in North Dakota and across the country.

Facebook and Google have big-time lobbyists. We have you – our readers – who stand beside us as we work to find the truth about our cities, our counties, our school districts, and our state and nation. Please join us today as we ask Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.

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