032423CM0826 stadelmanROCKFORD -- A task force appointed to study the decline of local journalism in Illinois and recommend ways to revive the industry meets for the first time Monday, March 27.

The task force is being led by State Senator Steve Stadelman, who passed legislation to establish the panel of frontline journalists and academics and who worked 25 years as an award-winning television reporter and news anchor before his election to the Illinois General Assembly in 2012.

"Newsrooms across the nation are shrinking, especially in smaller and more rural areas, and an alarming number have closed in the last decade," Stadelman said. "When people don't know what's happening on their town councils and school boards, they can't make educated decisions or hold public officials accountable."

Stadelman's legislation charges the 23-member task force with studying Illinois communities underserved by the news media, proposing public policy to strengthen local journalism and recommending ways to support private-sector or non-profit operating models. Members of the task force represent higher education including the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, news media including the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council and Illinois Press Association and government including the Illinois Municipal League.

"There needs to be a candid conversation about the future of local news and how its future will affect the lives of families across our state," Stadelman said. "Although the outcome could be that state government has no role, I'm optimistic about Illinois coming up with creative solutions to keep journalism alive and keep our citizens informed regardless of their zip codes.”

Monday's virtual meeting from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. will be largely organizational but include a review of survey responses that asked task force members to identify what they view as priorities in identifying possible solutions.

View the meeting on WebEx or join by phone at 312-535-8110. (Meeting Number / Access Code: 2457 941 2076. Password: rBqw9U.) 

Future meetings could be in-person in Springfield, Rockford and/or the Chicago area. The task force's assignment will conclude with a report to the governor and legislature.