The Colorado Media Project, a coalition fighting to give journalism a future, plans to push legislation next year to save local news in Colorado.
“We have talked to legislators on both sides of the aisle already,” said JB Holston, a Denver University dean and a spark plug of the CMP. “The frames are different, but they are not incompatible. A lot of R’s look at it and say, ‘Gee, that’s an economic development, Colorado-innovation, small-business development opportunity.’ Those on the other side of the aisle resonate with the notion that democracy is at risk.”
“But I think the other notion is, when you have a one-party state, the other party doesn’t mind having journalists to the same degree,” Holston continued. “So, I think there is some of that going on.”
Holston was speaking on a panel yesterday about the CMP’s new report, “Local News is a Public Good.”
“I think one of the challenges for the conversation in Colorado, though, is, how do we scale that conversation,” Holston said. “This kind of a forum is great. How do you have a hundred times as many people in real time involved. I think the New Jersey story is a good example of how you get that done. But a lot of the challenge for this is, where do we go from here?
“Now we are putting legislation on the table for this session. This is the beginning of a scaled, Colorado-wide, collaborative conversation about the issue.”
Holston’s and his fellow panel members took the surprising step of advocating a tax specifically to boost journalism in Colorado (e.g., a sales tax on digital ads, a local special-district tax).
Holston was quickly asked by panel moderator Corey Hutchins to name the folks he’d been talking to at the Capitol.
It’s not a proposal you’d expect Republicans to exactly flock to, not only because of their hardline stance on taxes (except those on sports betting) but also because so many–from Trump and Cory Gardner at the top to state legislators and radio hosts at the bottom–regularly disparage professional journalism. And it makes you sick.
But, alas, Holston didn’t say which lawmakers he’d been in touch with. He and Mike Rispoli of Free Press, who was also on the CU Denver School of Public Affairs panel yesterday, did point to legislation passed in New Jersey, with serious bipartisan support, that provided incentive funds for local journalism.
The CMP makes a beautiful point that saving journalism can provide a wide variety of benefits (economic and democratic) that can appeal to different folks. And the report lays this all out really well.
Still, you have to believe only Republicans who understand and trust journalism will go for a tax in the end, given the many other economic-development options available. There are some of those enlightened Republicans.
But it really doesn’t matter what journalism-hating Republicans want if journalism-loving Democrats in control have the guts to move ahead without them, does it?
“The news business is in crisis,” was the first slide at yesterday’s unveiling of the Colorado Media Project’s report on how to save local journalism.
Can Republicans be convinced to care?
Mike Rispoli was misidentified as Craig Aaron in an early version of this post.