A former journalist turned State Senator is trying to ensure that small towns have proper news coverage. State Senator Steve Stadelman of Rockford has introduced Senate Bill 3457, the Local Journalism Task Force Act, that has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
The act creates a task force that would conduct a comprehensive study relative to communities under served by local journalism in the state. It would review all aspects of local journalism including the adequacy of press coverage of communities, the ratio of residents to media outlets, the history of local news in the state, print and digital business models for media outlets, the impact social media has on local news, and explore public policy to improve the sustainability of local journalism through either private or nonprofit solutions.
The bill creates a 10 person task force consisting of 1 member of the House, 1 member from the Senate, 1 member appointed by the governor, one member of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, one member from the journalism department at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, one member from SIU’s school of journalism, members from the Illinois Broadcaster’s Association and the Illinois Press Association, one member from Illinois Municipal League, and one from the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association. The act mandates 5 meetings of the group to review data and discuss solutions, with support to the group being provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The group would submit its findings to the governor’s office within 1 year of creation and the task force would then be decommissioned through repeal in 2022.
Senator Stadelman said in a press release today that nearly half of the newsroom jobs at newspapers in the state that existed in 2004 have disappeared and more than 2000 newspapers in the country have closed over the past 15 years. Stadelman says the whole goal is to preserve news coverage for citizens in the under served areas of the state.
Stadelman holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He works as a television anchor and journalist in the Rockford area for two decades prior to his election to the Illinois Senate in 2013.