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The President's Corner
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March 31, 2014
Bob Butler
President of NABJ 

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to study so-called “shared services” agreements or “SSA’s,” which allow a station owned by one company to provide news for a competing company in the same market.

Since these SSA’s have become widely used, some companies have decided to shut down their newsrooms and contract with a competitor to provide newscasts.

This results in the layoffs of journalists and reduces the diversity of viewpoints that the FCC supports.

I have personally talked to four of these journalists since FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler first announced his intention to take a closer look at this issue on March 6. In some cases the journalists were hired by the new station or were forced to move for a new opportunity. Sometimes they remained unemployed for a length of time or left the media industry altogether.
There are many more people who have been affected by these newsroom “mergers” but cannot talk about it publicly for fear of sanctions by their current employers.

For those who work in these newly “shared” newsrooms, there is more work and less time for in-depth or investigative reporting.

There are also fewer management jobs, leading to less diversity among those who make decisions on news coverage and hiring.

The FCC will not completely eliminate the practice of Shared Services Agreements. I think that is appropriate because there may be limited cases where these agreements make sense. But, given the number of journalists who have been displaced by them, I’m glad to see the FCC take a closer look at how the SSA’s are being used..

Bob Butler
National Association of Black Journalists

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