Today a billionaire shut down local news sites in New York and San Francisco, and the authentic neighborhood journalism they provided blew away. Articles about bakeries were vacuumed from the air, no smell remaining of cannoli on the street, crunchy hippie cookies, or real boiled bagels. Crime stories that refused to look away when someone was surrounded on the street vanished like witnesses who decide not to testify and yank the curtains closed.
Joe Rickets, who founded Ameritrade and gives millions to Republicans including the president, says he will restore the lost articles to archives. Minus what? The articles not worth saving? The inconsequential ones about someone’s kid or a bookstore closing or a political cause? How will we know?
Earlier this week Twitter and Facebook and Google testified on Capitol Hill about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and not much came out of it. “You created these platforms … and now they’re being misused,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the companies. “And you have to be the ones who do something about it.”
Doing something about it doesn’t just mean blocking Russian influence. It can also mean supporting local journalism. Writing truth, especially locally, staunchly defends democracy. Stories written about our communities by people who live in them are the anathema of fake news. They’re very real.
Do something right, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. And do it right now.
Google can go get every one of those lost stories. Twitter can help Gothamist, DNAInfo, and SFist to get top support and reach on the platform I am writing on, Medium. Facebook can set aside a place in its algorithm to give local news from these re-established local outlets and others like them a better chance.
Some people will say this is hard. It’s not. What’s hard will be explaining why you didn’t try.