The NewsGuild-CWA is enthusiastically supporting a bill that would provide a path to financial stability for struggling local newspapers, digital-only publications and local television and radio stations through a series of tax credits.
“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide a much-needed boost to save local news jobs,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “Half of America’s journalism jobs have been wiped out in the past decade and the losses have accelerated during the pandemic.
“The erosion of local news puts our democracy at threat of extinction,” he said. We enthusiastically support this plan to save local news.”
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced in the Senate on Thursday by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced a bipartisan version of the bill (H.R.3940) in the House.
“At its core, local news is about holding the powerful accountable. The strength of our democracy is based in truth and transparency, and local newsrooms are on the ground in our communities asking the critical questions, countering misinformation, and telling our stories. We have to protect these vital parts of our communities, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.”Sen. Maria Cantwell
“The COVID-19 pandemic made it crystal clear that local reporters and newsrooms are essential to keeping the public informed and safe, but their importance spans well beyond health emergencies,” said Sen. Cantwell. “At its core, local news is about holding the powerful accountable. The strength of our democracy is based in truth and transparency, and local newsrooms are on the ground in our communities asking the critical questions, countering misinformation, and telling our stories. We have to protect these vital parts of our communities, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Sen. Kelly said, “Local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations are pillars of our community, bringing Arizonans trusted local news, information about community events and the latest on public health updates in their area. The pandemic made an already difficult financial situation for these news providers even harder, which is why I support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. By providing tax credits for individuals to support local news outlets, they can continue to provide important coverage for Arizona readers, listeners and viewers.”
“The decline of local news has had devastating effects on our communities,” said Sen. Wyden. Local news has often been the only window into the city council or mayor’s office. Without these outlets, these important institutions in our communities go uncovered. Further, the decline of local news has only fueled the growth of misinformation, as Americans lose their most trusted sources of information. As the son of a journalist, these developments trouble me greatly. Our bill would provide financial support to local news at this critical time for our democracy.”
The bill has been endorsed by Rebuild Local News, a broad coalition of journalism and pro-democracy groups, which includes The NewsGuild-CWA. The coalition includes:
Local Independent Online News Publishers
Institute for Nonprofit News
National Association of Hispanic Publications
National Newspaper Publishers Association
Local Media Consortium
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Report for America/The GroundTruth Project
American Journalism Project
Solutions Journalism Network
Lenfest Institute for Journalism
Journalist Compensation Credit
The bill provides for a Journalist Compensation Credit that would give local newspapers, local digital-only news publications and commercial and public broadcasters the ability to hire more dedicated journalists to improve their coverage by granting a five-year credit of up to $25,000 in first year and up to $15,000 in subsequent four years.
The credit could be used to cover 50% of compensation up to $50,000 in first year, and 30% of compensation up to $50,000 in subsequent four years.
Journalists must work a minimum of 100 hours per quarter to qualify as eligible employees.
Local Newspaper Subscription Credit
A subscription credit would incentivize people to subscribe to local newspapers.
A five-year credit of up to $250 annually could be used to cover 80% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% in the subsequent four years. To receive the full $250 credit, a subscriber would have to spend at least $312.50 in the first year, and $500 each of the following four years.
The credit could be applied to non-profit publications if the publication is the non-profit’s primary activity.
Local Newspaper and Local Media Advertising Credit
Small businesses would be eligible for tax credits for advertising in local newspapers and media.
A five-year credit of up to $5,000 could be granted in the first year and up to $2,500 in the subsequent four years.
The credit would cover 80% of advertising costs in the first year and 50% in subsequent four years. To receive the full $5,000 in the first year and $2,500 in subsequent four years, businesses would have to spend at least $6,250 and $5,000 respectively.
Small businesses may utilize this credit to advertise with local television and radio stations, as well as to local newspapers.
“I’m hopeful that members of Congress will rally around this important measure,” Schleuss said.