Local

The AJC’s Editor Is Going To Testify For A Bill Meant To Save Local Journalism

The bill, H.R. 2054, was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)  in April after having been formally introduced last year.
The bill, H.R. 2054, was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in April after having been formally introduced last year.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
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Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Kevin Riley will represent his newspaper, the city and the interest of print, online and local publications across the country as one of a number of people testifying before a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday.

Riley and others will be on Capitol Hill in support of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.

The bill, H.R. 2054, was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) for himself, U.S Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and U.S Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D.-CA.) in April after having been formally introduced last year. Cicilline was then a minority member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. Now he’s the Subcommittee Chair.

H.R. 2054 has been drafted “to provide a temporary safe harbor for the publishers of online content to collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms regarding the terms on which their content may be distributed.”

It would do that by allowing a four-year antitrust exemption for newspapers and digital publishers.

There is broad acknowledgement that the “dominant online platforms” mentioned in the bill are referring digital giants Facebook and Google, among others. Facebook Inc. currently owns both Instagram (acquired in 2012) and WhatsApp (acquired in 2014). Google owns Nest Labs (acquired in 2014), one of the first smart home brands.

The term “news content creator,” mentioned a number of times throughout the bill, is defined in the bill as “any print or digital news organization.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state’s largest and arguably most influential daily newspaper clearly falls within that description.

Over the weekend Riley spoke about his impending testimony and why H.R. 2054 is necessary as a guest on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with host Brian Stelter.

“We are the ones who are out there covering local communities, letting local communities know what is going on, really documenting the big moments that a community has,” Riley said.

“I think that everyone that really looks at this issue begins to see that it’s not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue and the people most affected by this aren’t really journalists or newspaper owners, they’re people,” Riley, who says he has spoken to Rep. Collins, sadded. “People in Atlanta, Georgia, people in Carrollton, Georgia, they are people all over the country who depend on their local newspaper to do its job.”

“What I want is [for] people to be fully informed about this issue, what’s going on, and I really want people in Congress to understand what a local newspaper does and what could be lost.”

The hearing will be broadcast live at 2 p.m. on judiciary.house.gov.