The same week the Star-Ledger is telling readers who to vote for in the 2018 mid-term election, they are using their editorial page to support legislation in Congress that would benefit them financially.
Facebook and Google are pillaging the Star-Ledger’s revenues, the Star-Ledger says, capturing 73% of U.S. digital advertising and 83% of ad revenue growth.
And they do it by “exploiting the skills and using the content of professional news operations such as this one.”
“Facebook does not employ reporters. Google does not send people to state capitals to uncover corruption. Neither sends correspondents into conflict zones,” said the newspaper that has an increasingly strong focus on covering proms and bagels, rather than actual local news. “Yet those websites make towering piles of money while using the work of another industry that is in a death spiral.”
Death spiral. Not their fault, of course. It never is. And a respectful reminder that the Star-Ledger is a for-profit business, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Newhouse family is probably not struggling financially.
Ad money is going to social media networks, where people can read stories in their news feeds where Facebook and Google get the money. The newspaper’s take is “far less lucrative.”
“So in most cases, the money does not fairly flow back to publishers, who now have trouble keeping the lights on,” the Star-Ledger says. “It is harder for journalists to do their jobs. Coverage of governments – local, state, federal – has atrophied. Serious investigative reporting has suffered.”
But Tom Moran and the gang don’t just stand around and complain. They come weaponized with a proposed solution.
The Star-Ledger wants Congress to pass a bill that would grant the news industry a “limited exemption” on federal anti-trust laws, so they can “band together and use their collective might to set a fairer price for the news they provide to Facebook and Google.”
A congressman from Rhode Island introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2018 last March. Just one of his colleagues signed on as a co-sponsor; none of the twelve House members from New Jersey are on the bill, and no one from the New Jersey delegation serves on the committee that’s it’s languished in for the last seven months.
And one week before Election Day, the Star-Ledger says that “these solutions cannot wait.”
“At the time of year when we consume news at a voracious rate, this is an ideal moment to tell your Congressman that you care about the digital landscape and the future of news. Because our democracy, as (James) Madison predicted, depends on it more than ever.”
What should come next is this:
“I’m Donald Newhouse and I approved this message.”