I just sent this letter (slightly edited version) to the state senator who represents my county in California:

Dear Sen. Becker,

I am a resident of your district. I spent 25 years as a reporter, editor, and columnist in the newspaper business including more than a decade at the San Jose Mercury News until 2005. Since then I have co-founded two media-related startups; invested and/or advised others; served as a board member on a number of news-related nonprofits; and taught (remotely) at the Walter Cronkite of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

I write in strong opposition to Assembly Bill 886, the ill-named “California Journalism Preservation Act” — legislation that, while well-intentioned, is in fact counterproductive.

The legislation extorts one industry cartel on behalf of another. While Big Tech (specifically, two companies in this case) definitely deserves sanctions for misbehavior in other realms, this bill is nothing but a link tax. Among other flaws, it would seriously degrade the essential value of the open Internet, with major negative implications for freedom of expression.

As for helping journalism, AB 886 is misguided at best. It would send money to some of the nation’s worst financial manipulators, the hedge funds that have bought up, looted, and are well on the way to destroying most of what remains of local daily journalism in California. They have demonstrated nothing but bad faith in their behavior to date. To reward these modern robber barons would be bad enough. But the legislation would also disadvantage many if not most of the entrepreneurs who are working hard to restore local coverage but whose rightful opposition to this legislation has fallen on deaf ears in Sacramento.

If the state wants to intervene to help journalism and push Big Tech to act more ethically, there are solid ways to do both. AB 886 ultimately does neither.

I would be happy to discuss this with you at any time.

Thank you,

Dan Gillmor

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