Hundreds of thousands of American businesses are getting help to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

So why not newspapers?

We’re in business, too. We like to think of it as a very special business, but in many ways, we’re like everybody else. We must meet expenses for paying our employees, providing them with benefits, operating our offices and running our printing presses.

Many local news publications already were facing financial difficulties before the pandemic. Now, the severe economic blows from the pandemic are creating further challenges to keep newspapers sustainable. 

That’s why a group of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress — including Rep. Peter Visclosky of Indiana — is coming to the rescue.

The bipartisan group has introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, providing three types of tax credits to help journalism. We’ll let them make the case for passing it:

“Local journalism is a bedrock pillar of communities across the United States,” said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from Arizona. “Unfortunately, journalistic endeavors throughout the country are facing major economic struggles that put the future of many publications in serious jeopardy. … We need to make sure these publications can sustain themselves through this crisis and beyond, and I believe the credits in this bill make significant progress in providing a pathway to that sustainability.”

“Local journalists and newspapers are essential to ensuring the public remains informed,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington state. “Local news is crucial — particularly within our rural communities in Central Washington — and our local journalists provide in-depth perspectives that inform their readership regarding local current events.  … By providing tax credits for readers and local businesses and by empowering our local journalists, we can begin to help our newspapers remain resilient and continue to provide important information and updates to our rural communities.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act proposes a series of three tax credits:

• Credit for Advertising in Local Newspapers and Local Media — This five-year, non-refundable credit provides businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees up to $5,000 in the first year and up to $2,500 in the following four years to spend on advertising with local newspapers and local media, including TV and radio stations. It helps the small businesses with advertising, as well as supporting news organizations.

• Credit for Local Newspaper Subscriptions — This five-year, non-refundable credit provides every taxpayer up to $250 a year to spend on subscriptions to local newspapers, defined as print and online publications that primarily produce content related to news and current events and have a majority of their readership within the publication’s state of operation or within 200 miles.

• Payroll Credit for Compensation of Journalists — This five-year, refundable credit provides local newspapers a credit to use for the compensation of journalists, up to $50,000 a year per employee.

The bill’s sponsors say the proposed credits will encourage Americans to subscribe to local publications, help those publications retain and pay journalists, and provide both businesses and publications with much-needed advertising dollars.  

We encourage Indiana’s delegates in Congress to support the bill. Indiana is home to dozens of small newspapers with long, proud histories of serving their communities with vital information.

 

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