Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel is the largest circulation newspaper between Denver and Salt Lake City. When its owner and publisher, Jay Seaton, assumed his post in 2009, there were 210 employees. Now there are 67, including staffers at radio stations Grand Junction Media also owns. The paper’s existing revenue model, he tells me, “broke under my feet.”

Seaton is trying to make the transition from an advertising-based model to an audience- or subscription-based one. He thinks a bill recently introduced in the United States Senate might facilitate the shift. “I do think it could help in the short-term to bridge from the model we’ve had over the last 100-plus years to a new revenue model,” he said.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 30 by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Kennedy, R-La. No one has introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives yet. The proposed law would allow those with fewer than 1,500 full-time employees to negotiate collectively with technology platforms over the pricing, terms and conditions for accessing their digital news content. Publishers can demand final-offer arbitration if their joint negotiation with a platform doesn’t result in an agreement after six months. The bill also creates a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible news outlets.

According to the News/Media Alliance, a trade group representing 2,000 U.S. publishers, between 16% and 40% of Google search results are news content. Yet for every dollar generated through digital advertising, these platforms take up to 70% of the revenue.

During the previous Congress, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Klobuchar and Kennedy and in the House by Colorado’s Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican representing the state’s 4th District, and his co-sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. The legislation garnered significant bi-partisan support, with 75 co-sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate. (Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, Democrats representing the 1st and 2nd districts, respectively, co-sponsored the bill; Colorado Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, did not.)

Despite its momentum, the proposed act died in December 2022 after Meta, the parent company of Facebook, threatened to remove news from its platform and several members of Congress reversed their support. Australia faced similar threats but in 2021 passed a comparable bill requiring technology platforms to pay news publishers for use of their content. Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code has resulted in more than AU$200 million in combined payments from Google and Meta to large and small publishers, equating to roughly 20% of Australian journalists’ salaries. The code has forced Google and Meta to reach deals with outlets that employ more than 90% of Australian journalists.

At home, the outlook for the news industry nationally and in Colorado is grim. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey, newspaper revenue dropped by 52% between 2002 and 2020; U.S. communities lost 1,800 newspapers from 2004 to 2018; and an estimated one-third of newspapers in operation 20 years ago will be gone by 2025. In Colorado, the picture is equally bleak. According to the Colorado Media Project, roughly one in five Colorado newspapers has closed since 2004; the number of reporters in Colorado declined by nearly 44% between 2010 and 2018; and many small business owners who control almost two-thirds of Colorado’s 151 newspapers are looking to sell their businesses.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act has detractors on both sides of the political spectrum. Progressives argue its benefits will accrue to large media holding companies; conservatives claim right-leaning sites could be censored by publishers. The technology platforms remain fiercely opposed; just days ago, Meta issued the same ultimatum in response to California’s own Journalism Preservation Act that it made last year in response to the federal legislation.

Given the opposition, Rep. Buck’s chief counsel recently confirmed to me that the congressman has no immediate plans to reintroduce a companion bill in the House, since “its prospects are grim.”


Yet supporters of the bill remain hopeful. One of the main advocates is the News/Media Alliance, joined by more than 300 other advocacy groups. Nearly 1,000 supportive editorials and op-eds have been published in newspapers in 48 states, including Colorado. Seaton said he believes the bill’s collective bargaining component is its most vital: “We’re a lot weaker on our own than we would be as a group,” he told me. “The tech lobby is formidable. It’s like playing cards with a magician.”

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will not solve all challenges facing the news industry. Technological advances, shifting audience preferences and new business models will affect how traditional news outlets fare in coming years. What’s clear, however, is that the act could help the industry navigate a changing environment on firmer financial footing.

“What we can’t abide is the big guys – Google and Facebook – misappropriating our content for their benefit, which is the status quo,” Seaton said. Though the legislation’s  prospects may be grim, a chorus of supportive voices could overcome the opposition. It happened in Australia; it can happen here. The time is now for Congress to pass the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to enable reinvestment in local news coverage.

Katharine Crane lives in Boulder.

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Katharine Crane lives in Boulder.