Fergus Falls Journal

By James Allen

An important piece of legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021, a bill that would help local newspapers reach viability through tax credits. The bill comes five weeks after a similar bill was introduced in the House.

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021. This legislation would help financially support local news organizations through tax credits to incentivize hiring more journalists, subscriptions and advertising from local small businesses.

When the Fergus Fall Journal asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) about her thoughts on the U.S. Senate version of the bill, she stated, “As thousands of media outlets have been forced out of business, too many small towns and rural communities have become ‘news deserts’ without access to local news,” said Klobuchar.

“As the daughter of a newspaperman, I understand that a free press is vital to our system of government. That is why I have been pushing for solutions in Washington, D.C., including my bill to help level the playing field for local news outlets by allowing them to collectively negotiate with big tech companies to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their reporting and can maintain control over their own content online. During the height of the pandemic, I also worked to ensure local papers and broadcasters would be eligible for coronavirus relief funding so they could stay afloat,” said Klobuchar.

Since 2004, over 1,800 communities have lost their local newspapers. Since the COVID pandemic began, 37,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had their pay cut.

Brett Wesner, chair of the National Newspaper Association and president of Wesner Publications, said, “Community newspapers deeply need a boost to rejoin a healthy economy. National Newspaper Association wholeheartedly supports the concepts in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act and thanks Senator Cantwell and her colleagues for keeping the momentum alive for this legislation.  Without trusted journalism in local communities, our path back to a thriving, robust democracy would be bleak.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would help support local news organizations through tax credits for local newspapers, digital publications, television and radio.

Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced a similar bipartisan House version of the bill (H.R.3940) in June of this year.