Gretchen A. Peck | Gretchen A. Peck Editor and Publisher
This week, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), along with co-sponsor Susan DelBene (D-Wash.), introduced the Community News and Small Business Support Act (HR4756) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The core of the bill establishes a five-year plan to provide payroll tax credits to local and community news organizations to specifically hire and retain local news reporters across the country. Small businesses (less than 50 employees) that advertise in local newspapers, digital news sites, local radio, and local TV stations are also eligible for the tax credit.
The spirit of this bill is based on what news media publishers know first-hand. That means our communities – our residents and their businesses – suffer without local news outlets and local news reporters.
“This bill recognizes that the collapse of local news is not just a problem for journalists, but a problem for communities and all the businesses that reside in those communities,” said Rebuild Local News Coalition Chair and Co-Founder said Stephen Waldman. You can read Waldman's op-ed on the bill here.
If you've been following the story of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA), you'll notice some similarities in the bill. Early LJSA proposals included both payroll tax incentives for local news publishers and tax credits for small businesses that advertise.
“During discussion of LJSA at 117th “Congress recognized the importance of quality local journalism and the value of strong local newspapers to the health of our communities,” said Dean Ridings, CEO of America's Newspapers. “Although LJSA did not develop a final budget in 2022, there was still significant momentum to reintroduce it in Congress this year. America’s Newspapers, along with other key organizations, is directly involved in this process, We are grateful for the introduction of the Community News and Small Business Support Act.”
By the deadline, the final text of the bill had not been posted to the .gov site. However, in its most recent draft form, HR4756 would provide a payroll tax credit to news media publishers with fewer than 750 employees. Proponents of the bill propose excluding large state-run media companies and focusing the law on local and community news producers. To qualify, news organizations must create original content that responds to the needs of their region or local community. At least he should have one local journalist on staff. It also cannot be owned or funded by a political action committee (PAC) or his 501c4.
Eligible news organizations can claim tax credits of up to $25,000 per local journalist in the first year and up to $15,000 for the next four years.
“I think the most important thing to emphasize about the payroll tax credit is that it's for local news, not national news. It's substantive and politically important. is also very important,” Waldman said.
Small businesses that advertise in local news outlets, including print, digital, radio and broadcast news, would similarly qualify for a tax credit of up to $5,000 in the first year of the bill and up to $2,500 in each of the subsequent four years. .
How much political will is behind HR4764?
“The previous LJSA had strong bipartisan support,” said Dean Ridings of America's Newspapers. “The value of strong local newspapers is that they serve the needs of their communities, regardless of party affiliation. We expect Republicans and Democrats alike to support this bill.”
Rebuild Local News sites include Newspaper Association of America, News Guild CWA, National Hispanic Publishers Association, Nonprofit News Institute, African American Newspapers, American Journalism Project, PEN America, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and more.
According to a statement to the I commend Congressmen Tenney and DelBene.” Her E&P by Danielle Coffey, President and CEO of News/Media Alliance. “Without critical support such as tax credits for publishers and local businesses, publishers will not have the resources to continue investing in news provision, and news deserts will continue to grow and require quality local journalism.” It will become increasingly inaccessible to people and harmful information will be published.'' Misinformation and disinformation need to be disseminated. ”
“It's important that local publishers work with legislators and community leaders to understand the importance of this law,” said Dean Ridings of America's Newspapers. Ta. “With healthy newspapers and healthy local businesses working together, this legislation truly benefits entire communities. America’s Newspapers is providing many resources to assist in this process.”
American newspapers have been at the forefront of supporting this bill. When asked what impact he hopes HR4756 will have, Ridings said: “Credit that local newspapers can invest in their newsrooms provides immediate support as they continue to evolve their business models. It helps companies reach new audiences and grow their business. Healthy newspapers and healthy Main Street business go hand in hand.”
John Schleuss, president of the News Guild Communication Workers of America, knows firsthand the dire situation in many local newsrooms.
“The local news crisis is a jobs crisis,” Schleuth told E&P. “Americans lost more than a quarter of all newsroom employees between 2008 and 2020, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts they will lose an additional 9% of journalists by 2031.” This law addresses job loss by encouraging the local hiring of journalists.'' Hiring more local journalists means more schools, including school boards, city councils, and high school football teams. This means local voices and regional news coverage. By incentivizing the hiring of journalists, or humans, the bill would also help fight misinformation, which is only getting worse with the rise of artificial intelligence and large-scale language models. The Community News and Small Business Support Act could provide an antidote to the dangers of artificial intelligence while supporting small businesses. ”
Schleuss added, “This legislation is common sense and bipartisan. Industry job cuts have left too many journalists working on our coasts and in big cities. We need more local journalists. And we needed them yesterday. Any member of Congress would be foolish to oppose a bill that would strengthen our First Amendment. My goal is to see it passed this year. I will do my best to make that happen.”
E&P reached out to Dan Kennedy, a professor at Northeastern University's School of Journalism, to get his thoughts on the bill's practical and political potential.
“While we would not go so far as to support government support for local news organizations, LJSA does respect the traditional independence that journalism needs to hold governments and other large institutions to account. It seems to me,” Kennedy said in an email. “So I think Congressman Tenney's bill has a lot of merit. As Steve Waldman of Rebuild Local News observed, rewarding publishers for hiring and retaining journalists is , could encourage corporate newspaper chains to at least temporarily stop their cost-cutting tactics and do the right thing. Local news is essential to community life, and this bill, if passed, would encourage citizens to do the right thing. There is a good chance that participation will be encouraged.
“That said,” he continued, “I am particularly optimistic about the prospects for legislation that would help journalism pass Congress, even if it appears to have bipartisan support at this point.” No. We have seen time and time again that we have to acknowledge that our deeply polarized political landscape is primarily driven by the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, which prevents us from getting anything done. It has become nearly impossible. None of us would be surprised if a few elected officials figured out a way to derail this proposal. I hope I'm wrong.”
Stephen Waldman of Rebuild Local News estimates the U.S. needs about 25,000 more local news reporters to work in the field, but he doesn't think the bill is a panacea. Rather, he sees it as part of a larger solution that includes expanding philanthropy for the “reinvention, change and innovation” that is already happening in local news and newsrooms across the country.
“But the third piece of the puzzle is teeth “It’s public policy,” he said. “This could be a key element that turns things around and helps build a better local news system.”
“I think the impact of this bill, if it passes, will be significant,” Waldman added. “This is the largest federal support for local news since President Washington signed the Post Office Act in 1792. This will stop the bleeding, start a turnaround, and provide some stimulus and water to these news deserts. We believe this will help generate more local coverage.”
Gretchen A. Peck is a contributing editor at Editor & Publisher. She has been with E&P since 2010 and welcomes your comments below. firstname.lastname@example.org.