Local elected officials rallied in Hempstead Town Hall on Sept. 6 in support of local journalists after Verizon announced it would shut down FiOS 1 News, resulting in 150 people losing their jobs.
“The planned loss of another local news outlet weakens an industry that has already been decimated by damaging cuts,” Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said, flanked by Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana and Assembly members Taylor Darling and Judy Griffin. “U.S. newsrooms have reported a 25 percent decline in employees over the last ten years, with local news coverage often absorbing the largest blow.”
Gillen said at least 100 local journalists would lose their jobs as a result of FiOS 1 News closing its doors. For the past ten years, FiOS 1 has delivered information to thousands of people on Long Island every day.
“We will lose reporters, who we, as elected officials, rely on to get the message out to residents about dangerous road conditions, about storms,” Gillen continued, “and it is you local reporters who keep local elected officials honest by reporting on waste, fraud, corruption, and many of those stories coming out of this building right here.”
The officials urged Verizon to reconsider its decision and reinstate the media outlet. Gillen said she relies on the local media to report on the things happening in Town Hall to “get good government accomplished.”
“This is about the future of democracy and where we as a society have to put our priorities first,” she said. “The more reporters that we have, the more journalists we have covering the news, the less likely people in positions of power are likely to abuse their position of power. That is why journalism is so aptly called the lifeblood of a free democratic society.”
Assemblywoman Taylor Darling echoed the sentiment.
“We are having issues retaining people here on the island, we are having issues with economic development, so this is definitely not the direction that we want to be going in,” Darling said. “I get to know these reporters and we don’t want to lose that, especially not right now when we still have issues with communication reaching all of our communities in a way that everyone who lives in those communities can understand and really benefit from that communication.”
Without FiOS 1 News, Long Island would lose a third of its daily local media, Griffin said. “That’s a lot to lose.”
“Good government, as we know, thrives when we have an informed population,” Griffin said, “which is why we need to fight for the organization that provides hyper local original content on a daily basis.”