San Francisco supervisors urge city to invest in local media

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday March 13, 2024
Share this Post:
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey sponsored a resolution that was adopted by the full board March 12 urging city departments to invest in local media.
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey sponsored a resolution that was adopted by the full board March 12 urging city departments to invest in local media.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution to bolster the relationship between local media and city departments by urging greater city support and resources be directed to community and ethnic journalism outlets. Historically, these outlets have been excluded from city advertising dollars, despite better reaching San Francisco's news deserts and marginalized communities, according to California Common Cause, which led the effort.

The board voted 10-0 to adopt the resolution without comment. District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen was absent, writing on Facebook that she has undergone knee reconstruction surgery.

Specifically, the resolution encourages city departments to adopt a similar media policy emerging in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, by spending at least half of their advertising and outreach dollars in locally-owned community and ethnic media outlets, the release noted. The resolution also urges the city to publicly report how much ad money is spent overall and in ethnic and community journalism publications each year.

The resolution acts on a major recommendation from California Common Cause's recent report studying San Francisco's local news needs, "Local Voices on Local News: Community Perspectives and Policy Recommendations for Strengthening San Francisco's Journalism Ecosystem."

"Local news is critical to our democracy, and we know that San Franciscans are hungry for more," stated Maya Chupkov, media and democracy program manager at California Common Cause. "This is a critical first step in the right direction of reinvesting in our local media, and in turn, reinvesting in our communities and democracy."

The recommendations in the resolution, introduced March 5 by gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, will help to close the information gap for the city's diverse communities who are currently not being reached with important information due to the current allocation of advertising spending.

"Democracy depends on robust independent journalism, and robust independent journalism depends on thriving community- and neighborhood-centered news outlets," Dorsey stated. "With the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' passage of this resolution today, we're expanding on our city's commitment to its diverse communities by supporting the diverse community-based journalism that's part of it."

According to the release, a 2023 San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst report found that out of 98 media outlets operating in the city, only seven receive city advertising. The resolution seeks to change that. It defines "ethnic and community media" to mean outlets that (1) are locally owned or run, (2) have a readership that is at least one-third made up of San Franciscans, and (3) employ at least one full-time staff member residing within 30 miles of San Francisco, committed to producing original news for the local community's benefit.

"A free press is critical for the proper functioning of our democracy," stated Michael Yamashita, a gay man who is publisher of the Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco's legacy LGBTQ community newspaper. "This investment in local media has proved successful in New York and Chicago, and will likewise ensure that our city government supports and communicates directly and effectively with readers of underserved ethnic and community media."

The Budget and Legislative Analyst report also found many city departments use third-party vendors, like marketing and ad agencies, to place ads, the release stated. Given the fact that many ad purchases made within bigger city contracts are not categorized as advertising in the city's financial system, these dynamics have made it challenging for researchers and policymakers to understand where the city's outreach resources are going and how they are reaching communities, California Common Cause noted.

Research shows that a lack of support for local news contributes to increased political polarization, political corruption, and the spread of misinformation, according to the release. Ethnic media outlets are recognized by the United States Census Bureau as trusted messengers for communicating with millions of "hard to reach" immigrants and communities of color. Research also shows that audiences in the United States are more likely to trust local news than national news, the release noted.

"Ethnic media and community publishers are the lifeblood of local journalism," stated Jesse Garnier, chair of the San Francisco State University Journalism Department. "There's no higher calling than creating resources for these crucial, trusted voices working to inform and connect our communities. We will do our part to hold the city to its responsibility of supporting community journalism from the ground up, and creating a climate where truly local journalism can thrive and grow."

Other publishers were pleased with the resolution's passage.

"City government must also communicate to readers of local online media too," stated Stuart Schuffman, publisher of Broke-Ass Stuart, San Francisco's online source for news, arts, culture, nightlife, and progressive activism. "Hyperlocal online news sites are trusted sources who can share critical information via social media more effectively."

California Common Cause, San Francisco State University, and members of the Bay Area Independent Community Media Coalition will be hosting a hybrid community event to share the findings of California Common Cause's report, "Local Voices on Local News," Wednesday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. in San Francisco.

To register for the webinar, click here.

To register to attend in person, click here.

To view the news release online, click here.

California Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. It works to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promotes equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empowers all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!