Newhouse, Kirkpatrick Introduce Local Journalism Sustainability Act

July 16, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bipartisan bill that helps preserve community journalistic endeavors throughout the United States. Joining Reps. Kirkpatrick and Newhouse as original cosponsors of the bill are Reps. Fitzpatrick, Souzzi, Welch, R. Davis, McKinley P.E., Visclosky, Peterson, Harder, Heck, Takano, Carson, Fleischmann, Grijalva, Lynch, and Weber.

Local news publications already faced financial difficulties before the onset of COVID-19. Now, in the wake of the severe economic consequences of the pandemic, the industry is facing further challenges to remaining sustainable. 

“Local journalists and newspapers are essential to ensuring the public remains informed,” said Rep. Newhouse. “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.  Unfortunately, due to transforming business models and changes to advertising mediums, many of our locally-owned newspapers have been struggling to make ends meet, and the pandemic has only exacerbated their situation. 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.”

“Now more than ever, we are witnessing disparities of all kinds across the United States, and the ability of local journalism to withstand current economic conditions is one of them,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “Big cities may have strong papers, whereas smaller, perhaps more rural towns’ papers might be struggling with journalistic output. We need to support local journalism and provide papers with options — after all, they are fundamental to American daily life and deserve to be treated as such.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act offers a series of three tax-credits aimed at sustaining and providing a pathway to viability for the local journalism industry in the years to come.  The first credit works to incentivize annual subscriptions to local papers that primarily produce content related to local news and current events. The second credit is a five-year refundable credit for local newspapers to employ and adequately compensate journalists. The last of the three credits is a five-year non-refundable tax credit that incentivizes small-to-medium sized businesses to advertise with local newspapers, as well as local radio and television stations. 

The proposed credits in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act will encourage Americans to subscribe to local publications, help those publications retain and compensate journalists, and provide businesses and publications alike with much-needed advertising dollars.  

Click here for the full text of the bill.

The Seattle Times published an editorial in support of the bipartisan legislation.

“The possibility that Congress might support local journalism got a boost last week when U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, volunteered his leadership on the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. His support cements Washington state as ground zero of a growing bipartisan movement to save the free press,” wrote the Seattle Times Editorial Board. Click here to read the full article.

The legislation has also gained support of several journalism and newspaper industry leaders:

“As journalists are on the front lines reporting on the coronavirus crisis, as well as the public unrest on our nation’s streets following the death of George Floyd, the public’s demand for local news has never been greater. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act [...] would help ensure local news publishers survive the current crises, and that they are around to cover the next ones. We applaud Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse for their leadership in helping to sustain local journalism and preventing further closings of local news publishing businesses and the growth of news deserts across the country.” – David Chavern, President & CEO of News Media Alliance

“America’s Newspapers and its 1,500 local newspaper members are grateful to Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse for this legislation that addresses the economic damage the COVID-19 pandemic has done to newspapers. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act includes measures that will not only help newspapers continue to serve as vital information first responders in their community, but also help local businesses recover and widen access to trusted local news sources. We urge Congress to pass this legislation.” – Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers

“Keeping journalists active in our communities has become the hardest task for community newspapers in this challenging era. If there is anything worse than losing journalists during a pandemic, it is losing journalists during a pandemic in an election year. A lot is at stake in our democracy right now. The National Newspaper Association applauds the creativity of Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse and their colleagues in helping us find new ways to support journalism.” – Matt Adelman, President of the National Newspaper Association