Newspapers in California are facing a major threat to their livelihood in the form of AB5 (Assembly Bill 5).
While it sounds like some strange virus strain, it’s actually much worse. If passed by the state legislature, it would have a devastating impact on newspapers because it would make the daily delivery of print papers almost impossible.
The Bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would require newspapers to treat their carriers as employees, rather than independent contractors.
Newspapers have suffered over the past decade and some continue to struggle with cutbacks, a smaller product and less local coverage.
However, if AB5 passes, it could very well deal a death blow to local papers that haven’t been able to gain stable footing since the economic downturn a decade ago.
An editorial in The Orange County Register said, “Our industry has been struggling, but we are making strides to ensure our future and don’t need setbacks that only make it harder.”
We couldn’t have said it better, ourselves. We can’t stress enough, the importance of local newspapers to their communities. We bring you world, state and national news, but more importantly, we share the news of our communities through various stories and photos.
The stories our reporters produce run the gamut from happy to sad, celebratory to tragic, but the one thing they all have in common, is they are important and in one way or another, they affect those living in the communities the paper serves.
What’s equally important is our ability to get the printed product to you when you expect it. If AB 5 gets passed, it’s possible that delivery of the daily paper will no longer be an option for some cities and towns in California.
“At this time, it is unclear how this bill would affect the AV Press and other local papers,” AV Press Publisher Mike McMullin said. “We do not have local contractors delivering the paper daily. However, we strongly oppose any legislation that would make it more difficult for newspaper subscribers to receive their papers. We ask for legislators to reconsider this harmful bill.”
As of Sept. 3, the Bill was read for a second time and a third reading was ordered. So far, 74% of the legislature has voted in favor of passing the Bill, while 14% has voted against it. State Representative and Republican Tom Lackey voted against it. We thank him for his vote and hope others will understand that this bill, while helping contractors that work for companies like Uber and Lyft, will have a devastating effect on the newspaper industry.
“We all know independent contract workers and we don’t disagree that many are deserving of employee status,” an editorial in the Enterprise-Record said. “But this bill goes too far, taking that decision out of the hands of thousands of contractors who enjoy the freedom offered by non-employee status.”
The California News Publishers Association issued a statement regarding AB5.
“If you want to help newspapers continue to perform their crucial watchdog role, please call your state senator and urge him or her to make sure that an exemption for newspaper carriers is included in AB5 before it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.”
Let’s do all we can to keep print journalism alive and make sure it thrives.
After all, a free press is one of the pillars of Democracy.