By David Chavern, President & CEO, News Media Alliance
Print newspapers are still the primary way that tens of millions of Americans receive information about their communities and the world.
They are also the way that many people find out about job opportunities. While we assume that everyone has an internet connection, the fact is that many areas of the country have limited or no internet service.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 40 percent of Americans living in rural areas lack access to fixed broadband internet. Without their local newspapers providing the information and job listings they need, they would be at an extreme disadvantage.
But if the Department of Labor (DOL) has its way, these communities may soon be out of luck.
On November 8, the DOL proposed to change the way temporary job openings are shared with potential workers. Currently, employers are required by law to notify U.S. workers of these openings through publishing the listings in local newspapers.
However, the DOL says it now believes publishing the listings on “widely viewed” websites, instead of in print newspapers, would be sufficient, and is therefore proposing removing the print requirement and moving to digital-only listings.
The purpose of the existing policy is to ensure that job opportunities are made known to U.S. workers before they can be offered to foreign workers.
By publishing announcements in the print newspaper, employers are able to reach an extremely wide audience, both geographically and in income level.
Sunday newspapers – the main sources of print job listings – reach roughly 34 million adults in the U.S., according to the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism.
In many cases, newspaper publishers also publish the job listings on their websites and social media channels, as well as employment websites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder, with whom newspapers have partnerships.
The newspaper, in effect, serves as a local agency to ensure the broadest distribution of recruitment ads.
If the Department of Labor ends the print requirement, it will be much more difficult for people who need jobs to find them.
Without the print requirement, job seekers will not only have a harder time finding job listings in their local newspapers, but online as well. By maintaining the print requirement and adding a digital requirement, the DOL will ensure the widest possible distribution of an ad so U.S. citizens can learn of employment opportunities.
The proposed alternative of simply posting an ad on a website would make it too easy for employers to just “check the box” and by-pass available US workers.
If the Department of Labor truly wants to support its mission to serve American job seekers, it should require both print and digital distribution of recruitment ads.