We Need a Law to Support Local Journalism

Northwestern University’s Medill Institute recently released,  “The State of Local News 2022: Expanding News Deserts, Growing Gaps, Emerging Models.” This report out of the institute’s Local News Initiative of has inspired a series of editorials on the crisis of local journalism in newspapers across the country.
These include Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column in the Washington Post “Save local news. News deserts are a civic crisis,” and Carol Hunter’s editorial in the Des Moines Register “Opinion: Local journalism remains at risk across Iowa, the nation; action by Congress could help.”

Both give prominent mention to The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (H.R. 3940 and S. 2434), which the Tucson chapter has been discussing since at last December, when Ben Owens, senior legislative assistant for Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), spoke at our meeting.
Joining us via Zoom from DC, he discussed the legislation, which Rep. Kirkpatrick is  co-sponsoring. He described it as a bipartisan bill that seeks “to provide a pathway to financial viability for local newspapers around the country” by offering tax credits aimed at sustaining  local journalism for years to come.
Owens discussed how, if a bill like this were passed, it would provide support for subscribers of small- and medium-sized newspapers of up to $250 per year; provide tax credits to publishers to pay journalists’ wages; as well as provide tax credits for companies that advertise in those publications. Such a bill would be used as a stopgap measure until a longer-term solution could be found.
Kirkpatrick introduced the bill a little over a year ago, and succeeded in having a substantial portion included in the Build Back Better Act, but in December Senator Joe Manchin made it clear that he wasn’t going to support the bill.
Unfortunately, it is not a part of the much-watered down bill that the Senate—this time with Manchin’s support—just passed. Owens suggested that it might need to be reintroduced in the next Congress, either as standalone legislation or part of a legislative package.
More information about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act can be found on Rep. Kirkpatrick’s website.