Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List

LWVCO News Access and Literacy for Civic Participa

Federal Journalism Sustainability Act
Author Last Post

excerpt from Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan:

Bipartisan support in Congress has gathered for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, and its supporters believe there’s a decent chance it will be a part of the huge spending bill that Congress is now focusing on.

The proposal, which provides a series of tax credits rather than direct grants, is intended to give local newspapers, digital-only publications and other local news organizations a chance to be financially viable as they figure out how to make their way in the new digital world.

Similar versions of the legislation have been introduced in the House and Senate. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) are the House co-sponsors. The Senate co-sponsors are the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron. Wyden (D-Ore.), and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). This week, Sen. Joe Manchin III, the centrist West Virginia Democrat, decided to get on board, too. (The House version has about a dozen Republican supporters; the Senate version is still without Republican backers, but supporters hope that will change.)

One provision is a tax credit of up to $250 for consumers to either subscribe to a local newspaper or donate to a local nonprofit news organization. Another is a five-year tax credit for local news organizations for each local reporter on their payrolls. The third is a five-year tax credit that gives small businesses a tax incentive to advertise with local newspapers and local radio and television stations.

“The bill’s support is freakishly broad, both ideologically and politically,” says Steven Waldman, the co-founder of Report for America and the founder of a coalition of about 3,000 newsrooms backing the effort.

It gets Republican and centrist support, he said, because it is “bottom-up, market-oriented, temporary, nonbureaucratic, content-neutral and entirely focused on local news,” Waldman told me. And although some liberals might have preferred grants instead of tax credits, they like this in part because it is structured so that smaller news organizations can benefit, including those that serve communities of color.

The bill isn’t perfect, by any means. Because it is “content-neutral,” as Waldman says, it runs the risk of benefiting hyperpartisan aggregation sites (sometimes called “pink slime” sites) that mimic local newspapers but often are promoting right-wing agendas.

And some big thinkers in journalism, like author and professor Nikki Usher, dislike the bill because, she told me, “codifying what counts as a news organization at the federal level is liable to get messy quickly.” And, she notes, the legislation benefits more affluent news consumers because “the wealthy are the people who are itemizing their deductions.”

Full op-ed:

Return to Forum