A Chance To Sustain Journalism
It has been clear for quite some time now that local newspapers and media outlets are suffering. It is not because of a lack of dedication on the parts of reporters or a dearth of readers counting on news that matters. Publishers have been challenged to find revenue in a changing advertising landscape, with social media becoming the choice of businesses and individuals who fail to see the value in extending the reach to a wider audience than what can be found through channels known only to followers.
Thankfully, it seems legislators at our state level recognize the importance of local news and are championing a bill to offer relief to subscribers, employers, and yes — advertisers — in the form of tax credits. HR 7640, The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, was introduced July 16, 2020, and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. We hope that when legislators reconvene that this bill will be one that catches their attention and moves ahead. It can never be too soon for relief in this world of newsprint.
HR 7640 would allow an annual tax credit to any taxpayer for amounts paid for a subscription to local news, (80 percent the first year, 50 percent subsequent years), up to $250.
Newspaper employers would also benefit, with an allowed tax credit for each calendar quarter, an amount equal to the appropriate percentage (50 percent in each of the first four quarters, 30 percent each calendar quarter thereafter) of qualified journalism compensation paid to each individual, not to exceed $12,500.
Small business advertisers, indicated as a business with fewer than 1,000 full-time employees, could get tax credit for advertising in local newspapers, should HR 7640 be approved. Now, that would be a double win — expanded exposure to the public and a break on taxes. Surely that is something every business would be eager to support. The tax credit for advertisers would be an amount equal to an applicable percentage of advertising expenses paid, up to $5,000 the first taxable year, and $2,000 for any subsequent year.
And would reporters benefit? Yes, indeed. Relief experienced by the publisher means that jobs will not be compromised or cut.
Does the public benefit? Even those who are not able to take advantage of the tax credit given to subscribers will benefit, as the trusted source of news continues to keep the community informed. In an age when it seems trust is tentative on so many levels, local news reported by journalists familiar with the landscape and determined to offer a level of reporting expected by readers is invaluable.
No doubt, details will have to be ironed out as discussions continue, but this offers hope all around.
Tell your representatives that HR 7640 is a bill to support. Write to them, call them, e-mail them, text them. Let them know that we appreciate this effort and desire to see it come to fruition.
A community without community news risks a future of ignorance and apathy that will not benefit anyone, in any way.