The New York State Bar Association will work to build a legal perspective on the ongoing decline of local news outlets over the last few years—with help from The New York Times’ deputy general counsel.
As the journalism industry struggles to find its footing in a digital era that seems stacked against it, the field is getting some help from a surprising source: the legal world.
This week, the New York State Bar Association announced it will take steps to support local journalism, which it notes has faced a sharp decline in recent years. In New York alone, the number of local news organizations has fallen by more than a third in the past 15 years.
“The future of local journalism is in jeopardy, but there has been no major effort to find ways to provide support,” NYSBA President Henry Greenberg said in a news release. “NYSBA is taking the critical first step in trying to address this problem.”
The association’s newly formed Task Force on Free Expression in the Digital Age will aim to create a legal perspective on the problem, in part by bringing together thought leaders throughout the media and legal fields to speak to the issues local news faces. The committee is co-chaired by David McCraw, The New York Times’ deputy general counsel, and Cynthia Arato, a partner at Shapiro Arato Bach LLP.
In the release, McCraw noted that NYSBA was well-suited to lead on the issue in part because of the unique relationship journalism has with the government.
“However, because of the special nature of the news business, starting with the constitutionally enforced wall between government and media, the role of the law in responding to the crisis has not been obvious,” McCraw stated. “With a foundational element of democracy and civic culture in jeopardy, there is a compelling need to consider whether there are appropriate legal responses to the crisis.”
The new effort comes amid a wave of interest in associations assisting the journalism field. After a round of layoffs in January across multiple companies, a number of major industry groups offered assistance to their members, while groups such as the Local Media Association have been eyeing efforts to help move the needle with new business strategies.