The following was written by Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers.
In the past five months, Congress has responded to the coronavirus public health crisis with several emergency relief measures, including the stimulus checks sent to individuals and households, payroll protections to small businesses, expanded unemployment payments, fee waivers for borrowing against 401(K) plans and more.
Now, Congress will get the opportunity to pass a relief measure that protects your access to trustworthy local news, helps grow local businesses through ads placed in local news media—and rewards you for subscribing to a newspaper like this one.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, introduced on July 16, is a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from Arizona, and Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington state. In brief, the legislation provides for tax credits for subscribing to a local newspaper, payroll credit for paying journalists who provide local news, and credit for advertising in local newspapers and local media.
This act responds to the insidious way the pandemic has deeply damaged American communities in a malevolent cycle. It forced the shuttering of many local businesses that stopped advertising in their local paper. Newspapers, which have seen their revenues plummet, responded by laying off the people who bring the news or dropping the days they publish. That threatens the access to vital news by people in the community who themselves may be out of a job temporarily or permanently and can no longer afford newspaper subscriptions.
Here’s how the Local Journalism Sustainability Act would help everyone caught in this vicious circle:
•Credit for advertising in local newspapers and local media. Businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees would be eligible for a five-year non-refundable tax credit to spend on advertising in local newspapers or local radio or television stations. This provision helps local businesses as well as local media companies.
•Credit for local newspaper subscriptions. The act provides for a non-refundable tax credit of up to $250 per year to help cover the costs of subscriptions to local newspapers, in print or digital form, that primarily produce content related to news and current events.
•Payroll credit for journalists. This five-year refundable tax credit could be used by local newspapers on compensation of its journalists up to $50,000 a year. This provision will go a long way toward ensuring that communities keep their local news coverage.
This simple yet comprehensive legislation helps the three keys to trustworthy, fair and accurate local journalism: citizens, business owners and journalists. This is not a bailout or handout to any of these elements of a thriving community—but an urgently needed assist with a strictly limited timeframe responding to an unprecedented public health and economic crisis.
Please contact the office of your local U.S. representative to ask them to support your local businesses, your local news media and your access to the trustworthy local news that only your community newspaper provides by co-sponsoring the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.