EDITORIAL: Worthy legislation

Published 10:33 am Saturday, July 29, 2023

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Dean Ridings, chief executive officer of one of the trade organizations to which we belong, America’s Newspapers, penned this editorial in response to the newest congressional effort to bolster a free press in America. We pass it along with commendation.  

It’s no secret that recent years have been tough on small businesses and on newspapers. A bipartisan bill, the Community News & Small Business Support Act, introduced in Congress would offer relief to both newspapers and local businesses. 

For too many newspapers, help can’t come soon enough. Economic challenges have resulted in too many communities seeing their local newspapers being forced to lay off staff, cut back on publication days or — worse yet — close. On average, two newspapers are closing each week. That hurts local businesses and residents in the long (and short) run. However, despite the challenges, what remains true is that local newspapers make a difference in their communities.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at the numbers and why America’s Newspapers has been pushing for the Community News & Small Business Support Act to be introduced.

A recent national study of 5,000 Americans over the age of 18 was conducted by the independent research firm Coda Ventures for America’s Newspapers, and it provides compelling evidence of the importance, relevance and vitality of today’s newspapers in the American media landscape. 

Readers told us that their local newspaper makes a difference. The study shows that 79% of Americans read/use local news “to stay informed” about their cities, counties and communities.  All of that takes a committed, local staff — something the legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., will help make happen.

So, what would this legislation mean to your local community?

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees would receive a five-year non-refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 in the first year and up to $2,500 in the subsequent four years based on their spending level with local newspapers and local media. 

For local newspapers, a five-year refundable tax credit would help them hire more journalists to bring you more news. It’s a win-win for local communities. Newspapers would receive a tax credit to be used for the compensation of journalists. The credit would cover 50% of journalists’ compensation  in the first year and 30% of compensation (up to $50,000) in the subsequent four years. This tax credit would only be available to local community papers with fewer than 750 employees and, if they don’t invest in their newsroom, they don’t get the credit. 

And these tax credits are only available to local newspapers.  National newspaper outlets are not eligible.

The importance of local newspapers and local business is the reason Reps. Tenney and DelBene introduced the legislation. We are most grateful for their support.

We need your support, as well, to encourage legislators to enact this legislation. Please contact the offices of your senators and representatives in Congress and encourage them to add their support to this legislation. These tax credits aren’t permanent; they will sunset in five years. But these critical five years will allow the newspaper industry the time needed to address the challenges that it is facing from Big Tech, which often uses newspapers’ content without compensation, as well as other technological and market challenges. 

More local reporting means more access for hometown news that citizens like you rely on. And stronger newspapers mean stronger advertising vehicles for local businesses.