Faced with growing numbers of people who want “free” news and increasingly shop online, many newspapers and mom and pop stores around the nation have closed their doors. COVID-19 threatens to add to that toll.

Concerned about the proliferation of “news deserts” and Main Streets that are losing their vitality, Francis Wick, CEO of Wick Communications, a family-owned company with news organizations in 11 states, is working with federal legislators to obtain tax credits to aid three cornerstones of strong communities ... and a strong nation — local journalism, small businesses and well-informed readers.

Ideally the bipartisan Local Journalism Sustainability Act would be included with COVID-19 legislation.

In March, Wick came up with a three-pronged plan to help newspaper subscribers, advertisers and the journalists who work hard to create local information.

“News that honors local heroes, covers school boards ... local journalism is in peril,” Wick said in an interview in July with Mike Blinder, publisher of Editor and Publisher.

Wick said many legislators realize the value of local journalism in helping them serve their districts.

“Local small businesses and Main Streets employing locals are critical to the quality of life, health and well-being of this country,” he added, noting that local advertising tax credits would let local merchants “come out swinging to try to rebuild market share and the health and vibrancy of the local economy.” The advertising credits would fund local marketing efforts, such as newspaper advertising.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act has been introduced by a bipartisan group in Congress — including U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat serving northwest Indiana.

Co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington state, said, “Local news is crucial, particularly within our rural communities ... Our local journalists provide in-depth perspectives … 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.”

“Local journalism is a bedrock pillar of communities,” said co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from Arizona. “We need to make sure these publications can sustain themselves through this crisis and beyond.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act proposes three tax credits, phasing out after five years.

1. Advertising: The five-year 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.

2. Local newspaper subscriptions: The five-year credit provides every taxpayer up to $250 a year to spend on subscriptions to local newspapers, defined as print and/or 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.

3. Payroll credit: The five-year plan provides local newspapers a credit to use for the compensation of journalists.

Time is of the essence. We urge readers, local business owners and civic leaders to contact our federal representatives to express their support. You can contact U.S. Rep. Jim Banks to show your support for The Local Journalism Sustainability Act by following this link: banks.house.gov/contact

It’s about journalism doing what our founding fathers thought it would.

As Kirkpatrick said, “The big national papers are great, but it’s right here, with our local journalists, that I learn more and know how to advocate better for our home.”

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.

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