A bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would be a good step toward protecting the future of journalism.
Local news media organizations, just like the Ottumwa Courier, are funded primarily by local advertisers. That took a substantial hit this year due to COVID-19 but has been on the decline for many years. There are many ways for businesses to advertise now. While print remains a vital component of successful marketing strategies we now compete for advertising revenue from many different companies: there are simply more cattle at the trough.
Unfortunately, most of those other outlets new to the scene (Google, Facebook, etc.) collect ad dollars from local businesses and it disappears to states away. Those dollars don’t support the sales reps who live here and work here. They don’t support the journalists on the streets gathering news. They don’t support the pressmen who print the paper. And worse, those outlets like Google and Facebook rely on our content, without paying for it, to drive pageviews on their own products. It’s a double whammy.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act provides tax credits for subscribing to a local newspaper, a payroll credit for paying journalists who provide local news and gives a tax credit to advertisers who purchase ads in local newspapers and local media.
Not just newspapers, but the local news industry at large, needs help, especially now. Local media record the history and news of the community that large metropolitan products wouldn’t care to cover if they had the staff.
Money from subscriptions and advertising is how we employ people to cover news and sports, and bring it to you daily online at www.ottumwacourier.com and in print three days a week.
Aside from supporting local journalism, the bill helps small and local businesses by giving them tax credits for advertising. That advertising will be effective in helping them grow their overall business, reaching new customers and expanding their footprints.
Community members would now have another incentive to subscribe to their local newspaper, with a credit of up to $250 per year. That will help them undoubtedly stay informed.
And, perhaps, newsrooms could begin to rebuild their team of journalists — or save what they have — with a five-year payroll tax credit to support journalists at decent wages.
This legislation is simple, straight-forward, and would pave the way to rebuilding journalism and keeping it alive.
Equally important, this is not a blank check from the government — a bailout like many other industries have enjoyed over the years. This is a good approach that provides assistance for an urgent need but lays the groundwork for the community to support its news media, not the government.
We urge our legislators in Congress to support this bill and hope you’ll write to them to support it, too.