Jennifer Van Laar on She Thinks: CA's AB5 Threatens Journalistic Freedoms


On New Year’s Eve I shared how California’s new anti-worker freedom law, AB5, is affecting me and my family. I wrote about it on RedState really as an afterthought. I was going to post a Twitter thread announcing my move then thought, well, I should just write my story up instead. I had no idea how much my story (and a later Twitter thread covered by Twitchy) would resonate with people and have had numerous opportunities to discuss the issue in the media.


I’m so grateful for all of the support and encouragement I’ve received since sharing my story. As I’ve become involved in an effort to repeal AB5 I’ve examined the numerous ways this bill harms families and disproportionately harms single moms (and women in general), people with mental and physical disabilities, and caregivers. I’ve seen multiple announcements from small community theaters, symphonies, and operas saying they’re suspending operations because they cannot hire all of the “gig” workers it takes to run such an operation as employees. Entire industries are on the verge of extinction (including the “Awards Season” industry in Los Angeles, darn).

One major side effect that hasn’t really been discussed is the threat AB5 (and similar bills pending in NY, NJ, MA, and soon AZ) poses to a free press. I discussed that facet of AB5 fallout with Patrice Onwuka, Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum, on the latest episode of the “She Thinks” podcast.

Patrice asked:

Let’s elevate this a little bit broader to what this means for journalism. I mean, certainly we’ve seen how the internet has proliferated the number of opportunities that writers have to amplify their voice and cover lots of topics, but what happens if something like AB5 spreads to other states?


My reply:

In my mind it has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and First Amendment rights because you’re only going to have a limited number of places where you can write these things or get your story out. Say in politics we’re limited to The Hill and Politico and maybe a couple of other outlets to get stories out and they only have W-2 writers. Well, that’s going to have this whole structure where you’re going to basically be told what you can and can’t write on. Anyone who says that that doesn’t happen is lying. You’re not going to have investigative journalism, and the whole new media, Breitbart, everything that he started, that’s going to be gone, which I don’t think is necessarily an unintended consequence of this kind of bill.

In my case, I’m the writer who broke the Katie Hill story this year, which led to her resignation, and that [story] would have never come out if AB5 [was national]. I say that not as anything personal about that politician, but I think a job of the media is to hold our leaders accountable. If we don’t have the ability to use our voice to do that, our whole country’s going to be in a bad place.


Seeing how the “Corporate Media” has covered events like Monday’s “Lobby Day” in Virginia (and countless other events), the thought that Corporate Media could be the only media in an AB5-inspired future is terrifying.

You can listen to the entire podcast here:

As I said at the end of the episode, I wish I had all of the answers [on how to fix AB5], but all I’m going to do is every day work to get this repealed so that people can choose when and where and how they exchange their labor for money.


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