Journalist-turned-politician hopes to wipe out Illinois news deserts

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A former television reporter who has spent the past decade as an Illinois state senator hopes a newly formed local journalism task force will help find a way to reverse the growth of the deserts of information throughout Illinois.

Noting that dozens of cities in Illinois have lost local news sources over the past 20 years, while others have seen their newsrooms run out, State Senator Steve Stadelman, a Democrat of Rockford, sponsored the task force legislation that Governor JB Pritzker enacted last month.

“The business model has been put to the test over the past 10 to 20 years,” Stadelman said in a meeting with members of the editorial board of the Daily Herald and the Southern Illinois Local Media Group. “Especially in rural areas you have school council meetings and city council meetings where there are no journalists, and that is generally not good for the democratic process.”

The idea for the task force was floated for a number of years, officials from the Illinois Press Association said.

“Nothing but good can come out of a discussion of how to support, defend and expand local journalism,” said association CEO Don Craven. “With the diversity of groups appointing the members of this task force and the diversity of ideas represented, this can only be a good discussion. The fear is that it will turn out to be a pretty blue binder on someone’s shelf. “

Stadelman, who has been a staple of Rockford’s newscast for more than two decades, believes the task force should focus its efforts on economic development policies that could help create new news gathering teams or maintain and develop existing ones. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities provides administrative support to the task force.

Stadelman said he hoped the task force would consider “anything we can do to encourage news organizations to bring news and information to underserved communities. But I don’t go into that area with any ideas. If we study this and find out that they really shouldn’t be involved or there isn’t a role for state government, that’s fine; I don’t have a political agenda. “

Members of the task force will be made up of individuals appointed by lawmakers and governors, academics, industry leaders and other interested parties. Currently, 13 different groups or state representatives will be appointed to the working group, but Stadelman said he was ready to add a few more members to ensure “as many different voices as possible and different groups that might want to. make their contribution “.

Pritzker has already announced that his press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, will be part of the task force as his office choice.

The working group is expected to start meeting next year and will eventually report to the General Assembly within two years with its findings and recommendations.


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