A state legislative task force last Wednesday released a report on the state of local news coverage in Illinois, and the news is not good.
Chicago News Guild member and former Tribune and Sun-Times editor Mark Jacob and our CWA sibling, former NABET Local 41 president Chris Willadsen, served on the state Local News Task Force, with Mark leading the team that drafted the task force's report. CNG members at our January membership meeting got a preview from Medill student Mary Randolph, who helped with the report, and you can read the full report here.
Illinois has lost 2,300 fewer reporters, editors and photographers, cameramen and producers since 2005, an 86% decline and the largest total loss of journalism jobs of any state. That means less news coverage for local communities, with the biggest losses felt in Chicago's suburban areas.
Research has shown that while digital startups are doing great work, they aren't coming close to reaching the staffing or coverage levels of the newspapers. And communities that lose local news sources see fewer people running for office, lower voter turnout, and tend to have higher municipal debt and other signs of fiscal mismanagement.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of Mark and Chris, the committee members agreed that addressing a local news coverage crisis has to begin with increasing the number of journalists out there working to cover the news. State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) will introduce legislation that is intended to increase staffing, primarily by subsidizing positions or driving additional revenue to newspapers— though the committee notes that any public policy solution has to include strings to make sure every dollar goes into the newsroom, not some hedge fund's profit statement.
Watch Wednesday's press conference here.