www.montereycountyweekly.com february 22-28, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 In the past couple of weeks some interesting financial news has been reported in national and local media outlets. Say you wanted to catch up and find out the amount Donald Trump was ordered to pay in the civil fraud judgment in New York last week, or how much money the candidates in the race for Supervisor in District 5 in Monterey County have each raised. You Google it. Google has become so ubiquitous, so completely ingrained in our daily lives, that the proper name of the search engine has become a de facto verb worldwide. Google’s technology benefits users greatly. The technology benefits Google even more. In 2023 its parent company, Alphabet, had earnings over $300 billion—almost all of it from advertising. Google paid nothing to the originators of that content. One of the major reasons for newspapers’ eroding financial position is that tech giants Google and Meta control what gets viewed, and collect ad revenue to be that gatekeeper. And now with the newest search results being bolstered by AI, Google increasingly doesn’t even send users off its own site. They have harvested billions in advertising revenue, and have never paid any money to the journalists who create the content. The California legislature is set to change that. Following in the footsteps of laws enacted in Australia and Canada, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) introduced the California Journalism Preservation Act. The bill will require tech companies to share a portion of the revenue earned from the content with news media companies. Last year the bill was approved unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee, and then passed on the floor of the Assembly last summer by a bipartisan vote of 55 to 6. The bill now sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is getting amended to make it more similar to the Canadian model. In an interview last week in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wicks expanded on the need and the intent and the law. “It requires the tech platforms to pay for the content they repurpose. We’ve lost about one hundred publications in California in the last ten years. The bill has bipartisan support. I think that is really important. A lot of the colleagues who became big supporters of the bill came from local offices. When they were in city council or on the county commission, they’d have these Tuesday night city council meetings where they’re making budgetary decisions and policy decisions that impact people’s day-to-day life, and there was just literally no one covering it.” Danielle Coffey of News Media Alliance spoke in support of the bill, telling the committee, “Google and Facebook systematically and deliberately feed users our content to drive engagement. They do so within their walled gardens and personalized feeds so that they can collect your user data, your personal information and then target you with advertising.” Likely the payments to news organizations will be based on newsroom head count under the amended bill, as opposed to its original Assembly form, which was based on internet traffic alone. This change will avoid rewarding clickbait and ensure that the money is divided proportionately amongst large and small news organizations. The bill is opposed, unsurprisingly, by Meta and Google. Meta has pulled news from its platform in 2023 throughout Canada rather than share any revenue with journalism companies. Google threatened the same in Australia, but was back to posting search results from trusted journalism sources within two days— essentially demonstrating that its revenue model really depends on quality content. Ryan Adam, Vice President for Government Relations at Canada’s largest media company, the Toronto Star, was in Sacramento two weeks ago meeting with the Chair of the Judiciary committee to help move the bill forward. He said, “Meta choosing to block news rather than pay content creators their fair share underscores the power of the Google/Meta monopoly and demonstrates that tech companies will always choose profit over people. This is why regulation of big tech and legislative solutions are needed to protect more newsrooms from closing.” Erik Cushman is the Weekly’s publisher. Reach him at erik@mcweekly.com Fair Share The California legislature has the chance to boost local journalism. By Erik Cushman Dept. of Disinformation…Among the ways Squid’s tentacles take the community’s pulse is through NextDoor, despite the tendency for conversations on the platform to devolve into negativity. Recently, Squid discovered it’s also a place for Pacific Grove Councilmember Luke Coletti to spin pet issues. Coletti posted an agenda report from the Pacific Grove City Council parklet subcommittee, on which he serves. (The council was scheduled to discuss it Feb. 21, after the Weekly’s deadline.) Despite overwhelming support for parklets, the subcommittee proposed demolishing two parklets in favor of extending sidewalks that will result in smaller dining areas. The report states that two “stakeholder” meetings were held, with three restaurant owners and two property owners. Only one owner had strong objections, the rest said, “‘just build it,’” according to the report. The “one” was Liz Jacobs of Wild Fish and she jumped on Coletti’s post contending it was misleading. For example: One of the restaurant owners was also a property owner, so there were four stakeholders, not five, she said; two restaurant owners objected to the plan, not one. The third is losing his parklet to a state law, Assembly Bill 413, prohibiting parking spaces near sidewalks and corners so he’ll benefit from an extended sidewalk. Squid will be munching shrimp-flavored popcorn while watching how the spinning spins out when the council finally gets a say. Sunday School…Squid’s always been fascinated by organized religions. That’s because each of them is built upon stories that fulfill a human need for narrative and meaning—before Netflix and TikTok. Per recent polling, church attendance has dropped precipitously in recent decades in America. Exactly why falls outside of Squid’s expertise, but perhaps people are finding community in other ways and places. That said, Squid was surprised that Del Rey Oaks residents recently received a letter in their mailboxes addressed to “Beloved of God” from Church of the Oaks, the city’s sole house of worship. Pastor Robert Hellam, who wrote the letter, asked fellow Christians in the city why there are only three or four residents in attendance at church services. Hellam estimates there are about 250 residents who attend church on Sundays, and asks, “why worship in other cities?” If residents don’t step up, he writes, the city will—“(God forbid)”—no longer have its own church. Church of the Oaks may not have the “bells and whistles” of other ministries, Hellam concedes, but he asks residents to bring in new energy to “ring those bells!” and “sound those whistles!” Squid will be curious to see how residents respond to Hellam’s plea, but when Squid lifts a tentacle above water, the wind has a prevailing direction. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “Tech companies choose profits over people.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com