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Luria signs on to congressional effort to save the local news: Here we go again

Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria is the latest to sign on to a well-meaning effort to save the local news media from what is, unfortunately, inevitable.

We’ve written about the bipartisan push to include funding in a future COVID-19 relief package for local media.

Unfortunately, what we’ve said bears repeating – government money going to bail out media companies will do nothing to save them from themselves.

Whatever, here’s Luria.

“Coastal Virginians rely on local news to get the most up-to-date information during this public health crisis,” Luria said. “Local media remains critical to our democracy, and we must provide federal support to members of our local media outlets and the press corps who are working tirelessly to keep their neighbors informed during this difficult time.”

OK, let’s strip the virtue-signaling here. Reporters at chain newspapers work 40 hours a week like everybody else, and it’s been an eternity since the national chains that own local papers pay anybody for overtime, so the “working tirelessly” bit is played.

It’s a job, a low-paying job, considering what you have to do, and have to know, which is pretty much everything, to be a local news reporter, but anyway, it’s a job.

There are legitimate concerns about what happens when local newspapers go out of business, because in many communities the local paper is the only independent entity providing any meaningful scrutiny to local government.

But the concerns with the health of the industry are not specific to our ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

We’re close to two full decades in to the fallout from the growth of the interwebs – readers and local advertisers both migrating from print to online.

Throwing money at the chains who are bleeding the industry dry will do nothing to change those trends.

And nobody who knows anything about how the news industry works thinks the bean counters in the company headquarters are going to use your tax dollars to help out reporters on the front lines.

But you can guarantee that they’ll take it.

And then, that when the people back at corporate decide that they’ve wrung the last dollars out of their increasingly worthless news properties, they’ll close them down anyway, and spread your tax dollars out to their investors as dividends.

At best, we postpone for a year or two the issue with local media, and we’re out a few billion dollars more, which today, the way we’re printing money like there’s no tomorrow, what’s the difference, right?

Story by Chris Graham