Indy Digest: May 11, 2023
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Assembly Bill 886 lately. It’s called the California Journalism Preservation Act, and it’s a fairly rare bill these days in that it has bipartisan support; it’s passed unanimously out of two committees lately, and it seems destined for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
One organization to which the Independent belongs, the California News Publishers Association, has given AB 886 its full-throated support. The most recent CNPA legislative update to members described the bill as “a game changer in California. It seeks to finally level the playing field between Big Tech and journalism providers, no matter their size. This bill will ensure the future of journalism and our role in democracy by requiring Big Tech to pay each publisher a fee based on the advertising revenue generated from the use of their content.”
Big Tech, in this case, is primarily Google and Meta (aka Facebook). In today’s Essential California newsletter for the Los Angeles Times, Ryan Fonseca does an excellent job of explaining how the bill would work, and breaking down the pros and cons. I highly recommend reading it.
Despite the bipartisan support, there are indeed cons—big ones, in fact—in the bill as it’s written now. It’s because of those cons that another journalism organization to which the Independent belongs, the Local Independent Online News Publishers, is staunchly opposed to the bill.
In a letter to California legislators, LION Publishers executive director, wrote, in part:
(LION has) 450 members mostly across the United States, with some in Canada. California is our second-largest membership state, with 53 of our publishers in its borders.
But those members—not to mention the owners of hundreds of weekly and community publications across California—are not the beneficiaries of this legislation. The CJPA, as written, would reward and advantage newspaper chains, and the ghost newspapers they’ve created in their wake. These legacy players—which operate more than half of the nation’s newspapers, by circulation—don’t deserve a redistribution of advertising dollars in the name of solving the problem they’ve spent so many years causing.
The evidence of this is clear in how the proposed bill defines local news: As anything “the covered platform has displayed or presented to California residents.” The funds this bill would redistribute from platforms are aimed at publishers producing “news or information that concerns local, regional, national, or international matters of public interest.”
Krewson then goes on to mention Gannett, the parent company of The Desert Sun and, among other papers, The Californian, a Salinas-based publication which, as we mentioned in this space a couple of weeks ago, has no reporters, and therefore almost no local content—other than paid obituaries.
“Under the proposed bill, all the Californian would need to do is republish posts from across owner Gannett’s USA Today Network—produced elsewhere, but indexed by a platform and read by Californians—and cash the check,” Krewson wrote.
It’s true. While the Independent and our sister newspaper in Reno (which also serves readers in the California portions of the Lake Tahoe area) would receive checks if this bill becomes law, those checks—and the checks received by other smaller, independent news organizations—would be much smaller than the checks going to, for example, Gannett.
In support of the bill, the CNPA points out that it includes a requirement “that 70 percent of revenue from the bill go back into newsrooms and journalism jobs.” This is one big reason why the unions that represent unionized newsrooms in California have come out in support of the bill. However, a guidance document issued by the Rebuild Local News coalition—which has not taken a position on the bill—correctly points out: “The current wording is so broad that it could become meaningless, requiring as it does that 70% of spending go to employing journalists OR the ‘maintaining or enhancing the production and distribution of news or information.’ Almost every facet of a news organization, from the finance department to the truck drivers to the HR department is involved in the distribution or production of news.”
There are other issues I have with AB 886 as it’s written now. For one thing, it requires that a news organization bring in $100,000 in revenue per year to qualify, which would leave out startups and one-person organizations that do great work. For another, it doesn’t require that an organization be based in California to qualify, or that an organization have a reporter in California, or that news stories being counted be about something in California.
Because of all of this, I am opposed to the current version of AB 886. It would do very little to benefit good California journalism—and a lot to reward, with virtually no strings, big companies that aren’t acting in the best interests of Californians.
From the Independent
The Business Side of Music: Avenida Music Wants to Help Local Artists Thrive via Downtown Indio’s Little Street Music Hall
By Matt King
May 9th, 2023
Downtown Indio’s Little Street Music Hall will feature live music and events, and offer rehearsal space, while being open during the day selling coffee, tea and beer as Encore Coffee.
Vine Social: Does a Wine’s Vintage Matter? It Could … but It Probably Doesn’t
By Katie Finn
May 10th, 2023
Is a wine’s year (and more importantly, the climactic events that happened that year) worth worrying about? Not to be obtuse, but it’s only important where it’s important.
Streaming TV: The Best New Sci-Fi of 2023 (So Far)
By Bill Frost
May 11th, 2023
Science-fiction TV is alive and well; here are seven new streaming series that prove it.
Laying a Foundation: Hardcore Band Hollow Crown Combines Positive Energy With Heavy Riffs on Debut single “Spineless”
By Matt King
May 9th, 2023
Newish local hardcore band Hollow Crown’s debut single, “Spineless,” is nearly 2 1/2 minutes of down-tuned metal, with emphatic screams and growls—and some creative breakdown sections.
The Weekly Independent Comics Page for May 11, 2023!
May 11th, 2023
Topics addressed this week include fries, Kevlar armor, unclothed human bodies, hitchhiking—and much more!
• Hey, Californians have two U.S. senators voting again! NBC News reports: “One day after making a long-anticipated return to Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., attended her first Judiciary Committee meeting on Thursday after a months-long absence following a shingles diagnosis in February. With Feinstein’s ‘aye’ votes, Democrats were able to send three additional judicial nominees to the Senate floor for consideration on party-line votes … With a majority needed and the panel split between 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans, Democrats had been unable to advance nominees without some level of bipartisan support because of Feinstein’s absence, leading some to call for her resignation. … The last Judiciary Committee meeting Feinstein attended was on Feb. 16, the last day she cast a vote before Wednesday’s return to the Hill.”
• The FDA has finally come to its senses and formally gotten rid of a policy that kept gay and bisexual men from donating blood. The New York Times says: “Instead, the FDA is finalizing guidance that includes a questionnaire for all donors that is aimed at learning about their recent sexual activity. The more targeted questions will focus on whether someone has had new or multiple sex partners and anal sex in the last three months. … The revised policy would also preclude blood donations from people taking oral PrEP to prevent HIV infection, a restriction the agency said was designed to avoid false-negative results during blood screening.”
• The pandemic-caused Title 42 order is expiring tonight. You’ve likely been hearing a lot about Title 42, but may not know exactly what it means, so if you want to do some learnin’, here’s an explainer from the Los Angeles Times. Additionally or alternately, here’s a piece from The Conversation explaining why severe restrictions on asylum-seekers will continue despite the order’s expiration. A snippet from that piece in The Conversation: “In March 2020, on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then-President Donald Trump invoked the law to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Trump administration was reluctant to impose federal lockdowns or mask mandates at the start of the pandemic, it was aggressive in its use of Title 42 to close the border to many migrants, including people fleeing from persecution and planning to apply for asylum. … The Biden administration expected the end of Title 42 and has already dispatched 1,500 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help shut down illegal border crossings. In addition, Biden’s new plan would make any asylum claim ineligible unless migrants first applied in another country they had passed through.”
• It’s been a while since we’ve covered mpox—formerly called monkeypox—in this space. But today, we’re bringing you two news stories that are entirely real, and entirely contradictory. First up: The WHO has ended the global health emergency regarding mpox. CNN says: “In July 2022, WHO declared mpox … a public health emergency of international concern—‘an extraordinary event’ that constitutes a ‘public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease’ and ‘to potentially require a coordinated international response.’ … After a heated meeting this week, WHO’s emergency committee for mpox recommended an end to the emergency, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with its assessment.”
• Next up: CBS News reports that perhaps mpox is making a comeback: “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it was working with multiple health departments to investigate new mpox cases around the country, less than a month after officials had hailed the weekly pace of new infections slowing to zero nationwide. News of the CDC’s investigations come a day after Chicago health officials warned they had tracked a resurgence of infections from mpox, formerly called monkeypox, many among fully vaccinated residents. … Of 13 newly confirmed or probable cases in the city, nine of them were among men who had been fully vaccinated, local officials said in an alert distributed to healthcare providers. … After the CDC’s last tally on April 26, health officials had hailed the nationwide rolling average of new cases slowing to zero. Since then, a total of 60 more cases have been reported to the CDC across eight states.”
• If you own a Peloton, then take note: A lot of ’em are being recalled. The Associated Press reports: “Peloton is recalling more than 2 million of its exercise bikes in the U.S. because the bike’s seat post assembly can break during use, posing fall and injury hazards. The recall includes approximately 2.2 million of the Peloton Bikes Model PL01. The bikes were sold in the U.S. from January 2018 through May 2023 for about $1,400. They were sold at Peloton and Dick’s Sporting Goods stores nationwide and online at Amazon, Peloton and Dick’s websites. Peloton has received 35 reports of the seat post breaking and detaching from the bike during use, including 13 reports of injuries including a fractured wrist, lacerations and bruises due to falling from the bike.”
• And finally … artificial intelligence could revolutionize early cancer detection. SciTechDaily reports on the latest breakthrough: “A new study, led by researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Copenhagen, VA Boston Healthcare System, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has demonstrated that an AI tool can accurately identify individuals who are most susceptible to pancreatic cancer up to three years prior to their actual diagnosis, based solely on their medical records.” Cool!
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