H.R. 2054 Has Bipartisan Support and would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets

Woodcut by Tommaso Garzoni depicting a town crier with a trumpet / Public Domain

PEN America says proposed law would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets



A bill that would provide a temporary exemption to antitrust rules for news outlets represents a potentially positive step toward addressing the economic crisis affecting local news outlets throughout the country, PEN America announced this week,  but cautioned that the effectiveness of the bill will hinge on whether small- and mid-sized news outlets are meaningfully represented in any resulting negotiations.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 aims to provide news providers a two-year enxemption from federal antitrust laws in order to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook over how the digital giants can use those outlets’ online content. Enjoying bi-partisan backing and supported by the newspaper trade group the News Media Alliance—which represents almost 2,000 news organizations—the bill is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate.

“Local news is in crisis, something that affects not only the media sector but that deeply impacts access to critical information for millions of Americans,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington director. “It is heartening to see bipartisan support for legislation responding to this crisis, and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act offers an important opportunity for news outlets to negotiate a more equitable arrangement with the tech giants.”

Since 2005, newspapers have lost more than $35 billion in ad revenue. More than 20 percent of the nation’s newspapers have shuttered within the last twenty years. Numerous journalists, media reform advocates, and analysts—including PEN America—have concluded that local news is in crisis. One of the key drivers of this crisis, PEN America argued in its November 2019 report “Losing the News,” is the fact that news outlets see little of the ad revenue for users who find or read their news articles through Facebook or Google.

“To address the crisis in a meaningful way, negotiations between tech companies and news publishers will have to include independent small and mid-sized outlets, as well as those that specifically serve those communities most affected by the decline of local news ecosystems: communities of color and low-income and rural communities,” said PEN America’s Melia.

“Ultimately, the success of this act will be determined by whether it helps ensure Americans continue to have access to original, local, quality news on critical issues in their lives. We welcome this effort to take a creative approach to the local news crisis and urge that hearings on this legislation be convened as soon as possible to refine the proposal.

“Finally, we note that this act represents only one step towards addressing the local news crisis. For such an urgent and serious problem, more—much more—will be needed. That is why PEN America continues to call for a Congressional commission on the local news crisis, to help craft the solutions that will ensure the future of local American journalism.”

This content is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate, Andrew Yang, proposes support for local newsrooms

Andrew Yang talking about urban entrepreneurship at Techonomy Conference 2015 in Detroit, MI courtesy of Asa Mathat for Techonomy under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Andrew Yang (b. 1975) is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, the founder of Venture for America (VFA), and a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. He worked in startups and early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. After he founded VFA, the Obama administration selected him in 2012 as a “Champion of Change” and in 2015 as a “Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship”.In November 2017 Yang launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.His signature issue is support for what he calls the “Freedom Dividend”, a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for every American adult over 18 years old. Yang believes UBI is a necessary response to the rapid development of automation that is leading to workforce challenges. According to CNN on May 23 Yang ranked tenth out of the top ten Democratic candidates. The first Democratic candidate debates begin on June 26. Yang is scheduled to participate on June 27.



Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s initiative to support local newsrooms through American Journalism Fellows is a creative proposal worthy of consideration to bolster community-based news PEN America acknowledged in a statement today.

According to Yang’s campaign website, the American Journalism Fellows initiative would place 535 journalists in local newsrooms across the country. Changing technology and the shift of advertising revenue from news organizations to tech giants have undermined the traditional business model of journalism. Yang’s initiative aims to “provide resources to ensure a strong independent press, free up a critical mass of reporters to meet market-based demands, [and] affirm journalism as a profession.”

In a June 16 interview with CNN, Yang argued for government investment in local news by citing studies that connect increasing political polarization to the collapse of local reporting.

“If you believe in a vibrant democracy, or even a functional democracy,” Yang said, “then you have to believe in local journalism.”

The campaign website said reporters from each state would be “nominated by a body of industry professionals and selected by a nonpartisan commission. Selected reporters will receive a 4-year grant of $400,000 ($100,000 per year) and will be stationed at a local news organization with the condition that they report on issues relevant to the district during the period of their Fellowship.

“We commend Yang for his recognition of the valuable service that local news outlets provide to communities,” said PEN America’s Washington Director Thomas O. Melia. “Journalism, and local journalism in particular, is an asset to democracy. In the struggle to preserve and support this fundamental institution, we welcome new and innovative ideas that add to the discourse.

“Care would have to be taken to ensure that such a program did not lead to journalists promoting government views or perspectives, but instead enhanced independent and investigative journalism. 

“Going forward, we hope other campaigns and political party leadership will follow Yang’s lead in formulating concrete policy proposals that seek to reinforce local journalism as a public good.”

This post is complied courtesy of PEN America, Wikipedia, CNN, and Yang’s campaign site.

DISCLAMER: This content is meant to be informative and is not to be construed as an endorsement of Yang.  The Poet by Day does not endorse political candidates but does stand for freedom of expression and integrity in journalism and assumes that as writers, poets and artists, readers here share this interest and concern.

PEN America is active in supporting freedom of the press in local communities around the country. It’s Press Freedom Incentive Fund provides financial support for initiatives that mobilize communities to demand an independent and robust local press. By uniting supporters, readers, and writers from coast to coast in support of journalism, PEN America stands in solidarity with local newsrooms nationwide. PEN America is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse political candidates.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

POPULAR POLITICAL BLOGGER, LAURA BERLIN, DENIED PRESS CREDENTIAL TO COVER IOWA’S 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

“PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders free criticism of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative.” PEN Charter, 1948



“The Iowa House’s decision to deny press credentials to influential political blogger Laura Belin (Bleeding Heart, A community blog about Iowa politics) is a disturbing limitation on her First Amendment rights,” PEN America announced in a statement earlier this week.

Laura Belin, a writer and blogger who has covered political news at the Iowa state legislature since 2007, recently applied for and was reportedly denied a formal press credential that would have allowed her to cover the 2019 legislative session. The press credential would have provided deeper access to lawmaker briefings throughout the session as well as a workspace to focus on her blog, The Bleeding Heartland, which receives more than 1,500 unique daily visitors when the legislature is in session. Belin has been touted as “one of the best political reporters in Iowa” by news executive Michael Gartner. In denying Belin’s application, the Iowa House stated that “press credentials are not issued to members of the public.” Belin told the Associated Press that other non-traditional news outlets have been issued press credentials in the past and suggested that the reason for the denial may be the liberal-leaning nature of her blog. Belin has attempted to appeal the House’s decision and is considering legal action.

“There is little obvious reason why the Iowa House might have denied Belin’s press credential application, and it would be deeply concerning if their decision was motivated by wanting to restrict the political viewpoints espoused in her blog,” said Nora Benavidez, Director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “The general lack of transparency around the House’s process for approving press credentials creates space for unfounded restrictions of journalist access. We caution the Iowa House that any content-based limitations on journalists’ ability to report on government business would be an affront to press freedoms.”

In October 2018, PEN America filed a lawsuit, PEN America v. Trump, that seeks to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes.

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Photo credit: The State Capitol of Iowa, with its Golden Dome courtesy of Iqkotze under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

A New Report from PEN America Warns: Epidemic of “Fake News” Poses Looming Threat to Free Expression


The spread of “fake news” is reaching a crisis point, PEN America warns in its new report,  Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth. The comprehensive, 100+-page report evaluates the array of strategies that Facebook, Google, Twitter, newsrooms, and civil society are undertaking to address the problem, stressing solutions that empower news consumers while vigilantly avoiding new infringements on free speech.

Coming from the leading US free expression organization, the PEN America report argues that even though most “fake news” is protected by the First Amendment, its proliferation creates a flood of disinformation that imperils open expression writ large and demands a concerted response.

“Fake news is mendacious publication gone viral in the digital age,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America, citing the organization’s 1948 Charter which commits PEN to “oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.”

“That most fraudulent news may be protected by the First Amendment doesn’t mean it isn’t corroding our discourse and, ultimately, our democracy,” said Nossel. “When the public loses its bearings in terms of what’s true or false, it shakes the foundations that make freedom of speech valuable.”

Faking News rates the range of fact-checking, algorithmic, educational and standards-based approaches being taken to counter the proliferation of fake news.  The report identifies sound methods that merit investment, and sounds a warning bell for tactics that risk suppressing controversial speech, such as giving government new powers to regulate or calling on social media companies to block specific content entirely.

The report comes out as tech giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter are being called to Capitol Hill to testify about how their companies’ platforms and technologies were used by Russian actors in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election. Arguing that these companies—which are many Americans’ primary channels for news consumption—must play a critical and transparent role in curbing the spread of false news, the report spells out a series of specific strategies that center on empowering news consumers with access to fact-checking initiatives and news literacy programs.

In Faking News, PEN America also sets out a News Consumers Bill of Rights and Responsibilities outlining what consumers should expect from the outlets and social media platforms that convey news and how they can protect themselves and others.

In addition to the report, PEN America will host a public panel discussion about “fake news” on October 13 at the Newseum in Washington, featuring Nossel, NPR Editorial Director Michael Oreskes, executive director of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center Lata Nott, media critic Rem Rieder, and George Stanley, award-winning editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Newseum’s Gene Policinski.

The report is available here.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible

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