"Boston -Massachusetts State House" by ajay_suresh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Boston -Massachusetts State House” by ajay_suresh is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Well, I said it myself in last week’s editorial: There is rarely a straight path to passing a bill into law in any legislative body on the planet. At the time, I was working with Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D – Marblehead), the lead sponsor of the bill to establish a journalism commission that my colleagues and I at DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism have been supporting since last year, to get it through the House as an amendment to its version of the economic development bill (H. 4872). 

With the help of Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses House Chairperson Ed Coppinger (D – West Roxbury), other state reps , fellow journalists, journalism educators like early journalism commission booster Prof. Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University, the national media reform group Free Press, and many DigBoston readers, the House passed the amendment and the bill. Which is great. Very few initiatives get that far in the Commonwealth’s two-year legislative process.

Then the commission language went to the Senate as Amendment 8—sponsored by Sen. Brendan Crighton (D – Lynn)—of its version of the economic development bill (S. 2842). And got shot down immediately as part of a bundle of many other amendments. Which is a drag. But it is also a fairly normal occurrence. The Senate passed the parent bill last Wednesday without our amendment.

The journalism commission amendment still has a shot at passage, however, when the House and Senate bring their versions of the economic bill together in conference committee and debate them out until they agree on a joint bill. The measure in question is strongly supported by the House; so there’s no need to push them at this point.

But there is definitely a need to push the Senate—where the journalism commission evidently didn’t have many strong supporters… even though it will cost the state zero dollars if enacted.

So after checking with Rep. Ehrlich’s office, we’re asking all journalists, journalism educators, journalism students, media reform activists, and DigBoston readers who agree that the state journalism commission should be created to call your Mass state senator today and ask him/her to tell Sens. Eric Lesser (D – Longmeadow), Michael Rodrigues (D – Somerset), and Patrick O’Connor (D – Weymouth), who are on the conference committee, to keep the journalism commission in the final economic development bill. 

Go to malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator to find your state senator’s contact information.

Questions? Contact my partner Chris Faraone and me at editorial@digboston.com.

Thanks to everyone who is helping us find solutions to the collapse of local news outlets—now entering what may be its terminal phase given the additional economic pressure being created by the coronavirus pandemic. A state journalism commission is only one step on a long road to rebuilding our shattered municipal-level news media, but we’re glad that lots of you agree with us that it’s a critical one. 

Now get on those phones (and keyboards) to the Senate! And get your friends to call (or email) too!

For more information on the journalism commission legislation, check out my editorial of last week here: digboston.com/help-save-local-news-ask-your-ma-state-rep-to-back-amendment-40-today/.

Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston and executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.