Mayor proposes 'incubator' funding initiative to support local journalism

Mayor Rex Richardson is asking the City Council to support the creation of an incubator initiative, which would help support local media and journalism outlets.

Mayor proposes 'incubator' funding initiative to support local journalism
A screenshot of Mayor Rex Richardson at the April 9, 2024 City Council meeting.

In the wake of mass layoffs and an ongoing labor battle at the Long Beach Post, Mayor Rex Richardson is asking the City Council to consider a local media incubator that could help fund local news outlets in the city.

Richardson sent a letter to council members Monday that calls on them to collaborate with local educational institutions, the Long Beach Economic Partnership and other organizations to create the Long Beach Media Incubator Partnership Initiative.

The letter also calls on council committees to support state legislation like Assembly Bill 886, which could force large social media platforms and search engines to pay media organizations for using their content.

“The decline of local media is a crisis that requires a local response,” Richardson said in the letter. “Long Beach needs to take action to reinforce a strong local news ecosystem to ensure our residents, neighborhoods, and businesses can get the coverage they need and deserve.”

The Long Beach Post laid off nine of its employees on March 22, the latest round of layoffs in what used to be the city’s largest newsroom. While management claims the layoffs were tied to a dire financial situation, employees allege the layoffs were retaliatory as they were conducted amid a unionization campaign and after workplace concerns were raised.

The National Labor Relations Board has launched an investigation of such claims. Meanwhile, the Post’s remaining three reporters are still on strike. The fallout has left the Post with no full-time reporters and prompted laid-off and striking reporters to launch the Long Beach Watchdog.

Become a Watchdog today.

Politico reported earlier this year that layoffs were on the rise again across media organizations in the United States, with over 500 journalists losing their jobs in January. That included more than 100 positions that were eliminated at the Los Angeles Times.

Last week, L.A. Taco, a popular publication known for its coverage of food, culture and underserved communities, announced it was furloughing its entire staff until it could amass thousands of new subscribers.

Richardson’s letter points to the Long Beach Accelerator, a partnership between Cal State Long Beach, the city and Sunstone Management, which has worked to bolster the city’s technology sector by raising tens of millions in funding to help support private businesses.

The accelerator’s program requires entrants to complete a 12-week course to receive a $150,000 grant. In return, the accelerator receives a 7% stake in the company. The accelerator also offers things like low-cost accounting, legal and marketing services.

It’s unclear what the model could look like for the proposed media incubator, but Richardson said that Long Beach Accelerator could serve as a model.

“Developing a nonprofit media incubator initiative that can model the services and benefits these existing programs provide can build the resilience and longevity of our local media and journalism organizations, and ensure that these critical institutions can continue keeping our residents well-informed and telling the stories of Long Beach’s vibrant future for generations to come,” Richardson said in the letter.

The City Council is expected to discuss Richardson’s request at its April 23 meeting.

Editors note: Jason Ruiz is one of the Long Beach Post reporters currently on strike.