Newspapers have been suffering a significant decline in revenue with the arrival of high-tech companies that spread less expensive advertising buys over greater audiences and the targeted social media that can be created by businesses in-house.
And some local retailers, usually good advertisers, have been lost to ever-larger national and international companies that made ordering online possible and delivered purchases to the door.
Since the nation’s economic stresses of 2008, hundreds of small and medium-sized newspapers have reduced frequency or closed, and there are something like 50% fewer journalists.
Newspapers have never been used to federal support – that idea has been abhorrent – until recently, with the creation of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. That plan, LJSA, included three categories of tax credits that would provide some partial financial assistance to papers.
To encourage subscribing, and voluntary contributions, newspaper subscribers would have been able to receive up to $350 annually in tax credits.
Newspaper companies themselves would have received tax credits for hiring and maintaining additional reporters and editors. And, advertisers would have received a tax credit for a portion of their advertising, thus encouraging them to commit to more.
All three categories of credits would only have been authorized for a few years, perhaps five.
LJSA was a part of the Build Back Better budget reconciliation that has been reduced in size to, in recent days, $1.75 trillion. To reduce the BBB to that size, a size that at the moment seems to be acceptable to its Democratic critics, tax credit support for local journalism was eliminated.
Making subscribing and placing advertising slightly less expensive, and underwriting stronger newsrooms, would not have been all newspapers’ need, but it would have helped. Strong communities and good government require newspapers with adequate resources.
If support for local journalism can return to the Build Back Better budget, so much the better.