April 16, 2020 – Today Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio unveiled a proposal to support local media, calling for increased advertising spending by the federal government related to public health, tax credits to encourage newsroom hiring, an amendment to the tax code to allow news publications to become tax-exempt, and deferred-interest loans to newspapers, radio and TV stations.
“It’s a promising start and we look forward to working with members of Congress to keep journalists and media workers on the job right now while also not lining the pockets of hedge funds,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “Newsrooms across the country are cutting pay and laying off workers in the middle of a pandemic when Americans need news coverage most.”
The proposal had 12 Democratic signers, including Representatives Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Jared Huffman of California, Elaine Luria of Virginia and D.C.’s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
It follows news early Thursday that Republican Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan is urging congressional leaders to include the news industry in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.
And last week 19 senators called on Senate leaders to include funding for local journalism in any future stimulus package. “Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote. “Reliable local news and information has been critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it has become more scarce. Aid provisions “should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news,” the senators wrote.
Two weeks ago The NewsGuild announced a proposal for a news industry stimulus that would accomplish two things: save current jobs and grow community-focused journalism.
Since the NewsGuild unveiled its proposal, dozens of companies have announced layoffs and furloughs. The New York Times reported that 28,000 workers have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay reduced since the arrival of the coronavirus.
“At this moment, we must save the news jobs that communities depend on for coronavirus coverage,” Schleuss said. “As the nation shelters indoors Americans need to know which hospitals are at capacity, what local health officials are saying and how many of their neighbors have died from the pandemic.”
The Guild is working with Rep. Ryan’s office and other legislators to make sure any funding would go to benefit workers—not hedge funds and private equity groups that have pillaged the industry and endangered our communities prior to this pandemic.
Under the NewsGuild proposal, public support for news-gathering operations would be required to remain independent from partisan influence and would be prohibited from using public money for executive bonuses, dividends or golden parachutes.
The NewsGuild represents more than 24,000 journalists and other communications professionals at publications and digital sites across the U.S. and Canada. The NewsGuild is a sector of the Communications Workers of America.