(NEW YORK, N.Y.)– On Monday, March 14, PEN America will bring together a virtual panel of distinguished journalists for a conversation on reviving a robust local news ecosystem, which is critical to ensuring a strong democracy. The event will also include remarks by three members of Congress: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California; Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii; and Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas. 

Sign up in advance to receive the Zoom link to the program: https://pen-america-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4Lfp-JWORX2-I-5piUMI8A

Journalists participating in the discussion will include: New York Times Op-Ed columnist Charles Blow; Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and co-owner of The Storm Lake Times; Karen Michel, president and CEO of IndiJ Public Media, a nonprofit that covers indigenous news; Willoughby Mariano, investigative reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post.  

Nadine Farid Johnson,  PEN America’s Washington director, will be the panel moderator. She said: “The importance of local journalism cannot be overstated. Local news outlets have historically functioned as vital governmental watchdogs. They hold elected officials accountable to their constituents and are critical to providing clarity on regional issues. An informed community is an engaged community, and local journalism is a critical platform.” 

Wrought by a lack of financial resources and ruinous corporate media consolidation, local news coverage is experiencing an existential crisis. Newspapers have been hit the hardest, losing over $35 billion in ad revenue and 47 percent of newsroom staff over the past 15 years. Over 1,800 newspapers have closed, leaving more than three million people with no newspaper at all; more than at least a thousand newspapers have become “ghost newspapers,” with little original reporting.

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.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, Media and Communications Consultant, STrimel@PEN.org