The LJSA is not an empty promise – it is a bridge for newspapers that would otherwise close

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act has sometimes been called government aid that will provide more profits to wealthy hedge funds. That’s like saying that pizza (with or without mozzarella cheese) feeds criminals and fuels their business. Sure, criminals can eat pizza sometimes, but a lot of other people, including me, do too. To say that pizza helps criminals is just silly.

The LJSA is a bill that would provide tax credits to newspapers and other journalism organizations that provide local news and information to their communities. The most recent budget reconciliation law, Build Back Better, included a key provision of the LJSA that would provide tax credits to newsrooms that meet the criteria. These credits are 50% of employees’ salary (capped at $50,000), or up to $25,000 per qualified newsroom employee in the first year, and up to $15,000 in the second through fifth years.

The organization receives the refundable tax credits (it receives the money whether or not it owes taxes) based on eligible newsroom employees, so the more newsroom employees it has, the greater the credit tax is important.

But, there are specific criteria that the news agency must meet that make it difficult for partisan outlets or those that don’t really cover local news to qualify. The criteria also include a provision that the organization must have been in existence for at least one year.

The bill provides incentives to retain and even hire more newsroom employees, so the return on newsroom investment is more apparent than ever. The monetary impact of retaining and hiring newsroom employees will be evident even to those who might struggle with math.

Smaller independent rural newspapers with only a few employees to larger newspaper groups, even if owned by a hedge fund, will be eligible for tax credits. They will all be incentivized to maintain or develop their newsroom staff.

Without getting too wonky, it’s important to note that some provisions of the bill would limit the amount an organization can receive, so larger groups will have caps. Additionally, national organizations like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal will not be eligible. These tax credits are directly tied to local news, and local news outlets, from small rural weekly newspapers to large metropolitan dailies, will receive tax credits based on the total number of newsroom staff.

More than 2,000 newspapers have closed in the United States over the past two decades, and more than 100 have closed since the start of the pandemic. While the exact number of newspapers closed is unclear, no one would dispute that local newspapers and other local news providers, including radio and television, are not experiencing incredible challenges and many are unlikely to survive. the decade. Members of Congress increasingly recognize the value of local newspapers and they have responded by introducing bills to help the industry. They understand that when a newspaper in their neighborhood closes, the community suffers in many ways.

It was also said that newspapers should not be supported by the government and that newspapers should be independent. Newspapers have accepted advertising from local merchants for hundreds of years, and they don’t hold back from reporting accurate local news, even if it means offending an advertiser. It’s their job, and whether the revenue comes from the local car dealership or government tax credits, publishers and writers know the truth can’t be bought. Newspapers also get discounted rates for using the US Postal Service, and they certainly don’t shy away from reporting mail-related problems.

There are now rumors in Washington that a new, smaller budget reconciliation bill could be introduced. Top House and Senate leaders have indicated their desire to include tax credits for local newspapers and other media outlets in the next budget bill.

America needs strong local journalism, and the LJSA is a giant leap for the industry as it continues to evolve. We encourage our leaders in the House and Senate to continue their support for local journalism.

On behalf of its more than 1,500 newspapers and associate member societies, America’s Newspapers is committed to explaining, defending and promoting the vital role of newspapers in democracy and civic life. We focus on educating the public about all the ways newspapers contribute to building community identity and the success of local businesses. Learn more: www.newspapers.org

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