Fund local journalism to help communities
Part of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA) was included in the recent Build Back Better bill that was passed by the United States House of Representatives. The LJSA, which enjoys bipartisan support in the House, provides the necessary support to local journalists across the United States and is currently under consideration by the Senate.
While there has been huge support for the LJSA overall, some experts have questioned whether government support for local journalists would maintain a free press. One such claim recently came from the Wall Street Journal in an opinion piece claiming that the LJSA is “a grant for local journalists, most of whom are on the left.”
It is important for readers of local newspapers to understand that this claim is not only misleading, but also incorrect. While the editors of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times may be interested in showing how far they are on the right or on the left, most reporters in local newspapers are devoted to their community’s news without bias in a sense. or in the other.
One of the reasons the LJSA has gained so much support is the emphasis on protecting local journalism. The LJSA is designed to help local journalists in local communities and not the national media. Outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, CNN, Fox and others will not be eligible for support because they have too many employees or do not produce local news. The creation and consumption of local news is different from national news, and according to a 2019 Knight-Gallup study, more and more people believe their local news outlets perform most of the key news tasks of their communities. communities, much more than the national media. Without a local news organization, where else can a community get information about its local school board, the race of the mayor, and other important parts of community life?
The LJSA also provides a gateway for smaller newspapers to continue their digital evolution. Most local newspapers do not receive any compensation from big tech companies such as Facebook or Google for using their content. While the Wall Street Journal may be able to negotiate a deal with Google to get paid for using its content, most smaller newspapers don’t have this option, and they are challenged to find the resources to provide information including their communities. This additional resource will give the local news industry time to continue to transition to a more digital future and to find a better arrangement, whether through legislation or other means of payment when Google and Facebook will use their content.
The LJSA is also not a permanent document for the industry. It is a tax credit that expires in five years and is structured in such a way as to encourage all local news agencies to retain and even hire more journalists to cover their communities. While some hedge fund-owned news companies and other large corporations will benefit from the tax credits, the real winners will be the communities they serve. For the thousands of small independent newspapers across the United States, especially in rural communities without other viable sources of information, the LJSA means they have a much better chance of staying afloat.
We strongly encourage the Senate to support the elements of the LJSA in the Build Back Better bill. We appreciate Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, and the many co-sponsors of this bill who understand how important it is for all communities to have a strong voice in local news; when it is lost, everyone loses.
And it has no tilt to the right or to the left.
â¢ Dean Ridings is CEO of America’s Newspapers, an association of approximately 1,600 newspapers and associate member companies committed to explaining, defending and promoting the vital role of newspapers in democracy and civic life.