Maya Chupkov (Photo by Olivia Wynkoop)

611. Budget neutral solution for funding community and ethnic media outlets

One of America’s most diverse cities will soon be spending at least half of its $1.5 million annual advertising budget in local and ethnic media outlets, thanks to the efforts of city Supervisor Matt Dorsey, Maya Chupkov and California Common Cause.

As Media & Democracy Program Director for California Common Cause, Chupkov made it a priority of her advocacy work to find ways to help bolster community journalism, especially local and ethnic media outlets, in a city where most municipal advertising dollars went to the larger media organizations. 

“Our main goal is to build a democracy that includes everyone,” she says. “Our core issue areas are voting rights, districting reform, government transparency and money in politics. Our newest one is media and democracy, which is the program I run. All of our program areas really aim to create government at all levels that are accountable to and reflective of California’s diverse communities. In our media and democracy program, we focus on implementing and passing policies to strengthen and sustain community and ethnic journalism locally and statewide.” 

Chupkov does not have a journalism background herself but did work in public relations before joining California Common Cause and, after working with reporters, she became committed to supporting journalism. “It made me realize how important it is to have a lot of reporters, not just covering the issues but keeping our public officials accountable. 

“I’ve been organizing and facilitating a coalition of locally owned independent local and ethnic media outlets in San Francisco since the fall of 2019. Through those group meetings, we’ve explored different policy options and landed on unlocking advertising dollars … because it’s budget neutral. We’re not asking for more money, we’re just asking for a more equitable distribution of current spending,” she says. “Historically, these outlets have been excluded from city advertising dollars, even though there are a lot of San Francisco news deserts.” 

The initial step was working with Dorsey’s office to commission a report from the city’s budget and legislative analyst office, which showed a “huge amount of advertising spending was only going to a handful of outlets. We saw that as we need to expand the pie and the city needs to know there are so many other media outlets that could help them reach so many communities that are being overlooked.”

After the report’s publication, Chupkov and her team worked with Dorsey to draft a resolution with the city’s legislators to require that half of all discretionary advertising dollars be spent in these smaller, more targeted media outlets.

“What helped get our resolution to the finish line was publishing our own independent report on San Francisco’s community information needs,” she says. “While we knew where the city was at with spending, we really wanted to hear from San Francisco’s most marginalized community members to see what gaps they were seeing. Bridging both the community wants and what policies could help fill those gaps and give more resources to local journalism so they could fill those gaps.” 

Chupkov and Common Cause didn’t try to position their efforts as adversarial to the media companies that have been receiving most of the city’s advertising funding. 

“Even though they might not get as much, they do see the value because the goal is to expand the pie,” she says. “The more we educate city departments about our news outlets, we don’t only foresee that there will be a redistribution, the pie of advertising dollars will expand as more departments see the value of partnering with local and ethnic media.” 

In addition to her work with California Common Cause, Chupkov is the host of “Proud Stutter,” a twice monthly podcast that serves as “a platform for people who stutter to share their stories. The purpose of the podcast is to shift the conversation around the stutter.” 

Maya Chupkov, media and democracy program manager at California Common Cause, discusses a recently passed resolution requiring government offices in San Francisco to spend at least half of their advertising and outreach budgets on community and ethnic media outlets.

Allison Taylor-Levine

625. Community collaboration key to evolving local journalism

Allison Taylor Levine, CEO of Local Journalism Initiative, discusses how LJI’s Delaware Journalism Collaborative, which has brought more than 25 partners throughout the state together to report on polarization and possible solutions, strengthens local journalism in Delaware and our democracy.

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