(Washington)–2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s initiative to support local newsrooms through “American Journalism Fellows” is a creative proposal worthy of consideration to bolster community-based news, PEN America said in a statement.

According to Yang’s campaign website, the “American Journalism Fellows” initiative would place 535 journalists in local newsrooms across the country. Changing technology and the shift of advertising revenue from news organizations to tech giants have undermined the traditional business model of journalism. Yang’s initiative aims to “provide resources to ensure a strong independent press, free up a critical mass of reporters to meet market-based demands, [and] affirm journalism as a profession.”

In a June 16 interview with CNN, Yang argued for government investment in local news by citing studies that connect increasing political polarization to the collapse of local reporting. “If you believe in a vibrant democracy, or even a functional democracy,” Yang said, “then you have to believe in local journalism.”

The campaign website said reporters from each state would be “nominated by a body of industry professionals and selected by a nonpartisan commission. Selected reporters will receive a 4-year grant of $400,000 ($100,000 per year) and will be stationed at a local news organization with the condition that they report on issues relevant to the district during the period of their Fellowship.

“We commend Yang for his recognition of the valuable service that local news outlets provide to communities,” said PEN America’s Washington Director Thomas O. Melia. “Journalism, and local journalism in particular, is an asset to democracy. In the struggle to preserve and support this fundamental institution, we welcome new and innovative ideas that add to the discourse. Care would have to be taken to ensure that such a program did not lead to journalists promoting government views or perspectives, but instead enhanced independent and investigative journalism. Going forward, we hope other campaigns and political party leadership will follow Yang’s lead in formulating concrete policy proposals that seek to reinforce local journalism as a public good.”

PEN America is active in supporting freedom of the press in local communities around the country. Our Press Freedom Incentive Fund provides financial support for initiatives that mobilize communities to demand an independent and robust local press. By uniting supporters, readers, and writers from coast to coast in support of journalism, PEN America stands in solidarity with local newsrooms nationwide. PEN America is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that does not endorse political candidates.



PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

Contact: PEN America Media Consultant Suzanne Trimel, [email protected]