Americans trust local news — and need it now. The American Journalism Project joins a coalition of local news organizations, journalism funders, reporters and advocacy groups in signing the open letter below about a bipartisan piece of legislation that would help local news organizations survive, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (H.R. 7640), introduced by Representatives Anne Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
July 23, 2020
Dear Members of the House and Senate,
The undersigned represent more than 5,000 local news organizations, journalism funders, reporters and advocacy groups — including major daily newspapers, weeklies, local news websites, nonprofit newsrooms, rural papers, Black newspapers, Hispanic newspapers, public radio stations, news startups and newspapers that have been around for hundreds of years.
We have come together because local news in America is collapsing. Even before COVID-19, the number of reporters had declined 60 percent since 2000. Some 1,800 communities have no local news source at all. Since COVID-19, the situation has gotten much, much worse. Scores of publications have already shut down; hundreds more are on the edge. Some 36,000 journalists have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut since the pandemic began.
This collapse of local news — core to a healthy and strong democracy — would be terrible under the best of times, but right now it also means that communities cannot combat COVID-19. Some 57 percent of counties with COVID-19 cases as of April 2020 had no daily newspaper, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. The problems are especially acute in rural areas and communities of color. Trustworthy and fact-based information — accurate journalism — saves lives.
Misinformation is spreading rapidly. About half of Americans report that they’ve seen made-up news about COVID-19, according to a PEW Research Center study.
Americans trust local news — and need it now more than ever.
Fortunately, there is an excellent, bipartisan piece of legislation that would help local news organizations survive, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (H.R. 7640), introduced by Representatives Anne Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
Through tax credits, the bill provides small businesses with funds to advertise with local media, which would help save newsrooms and help small businesses get back on their feet. Another provision of the bill provides Americans with money to subscribe to newspapers or give donations to local nonprofit news organizations. The third provision provides tax incentives to hire or retain local journalists.
Cost effective and common sense proposals like H.R. 7640 allow citizens to get better information, newsrooms to retain reporters, and Main Street businesses to reach out to customers about reopening plans.
We especially like these approaches because they provide significant help to local newsrooms but rely mostly on consumers and businesses, not the government, to decide which newsrooms to support.
Saving local news can’t wait. We strongly urge you to support the inclusion of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (H.R. 7640), or similar policies to support newsrooms, in the next COVID-19 funding relief bill or other funding measures this year.
National Newspaper Association
Society of Professional Journalists
Institute for Nonprofit News
News Media Alliance
Local Independent Online News
National Newspaper Publishers Association
National Assoc. of Hispanic Publishers
The Newspaper Guild
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
American Journalism Project
Solutions Journalism Network
Report for America / GroundTruth Project
The Lenfest Institute for Journalism
Salt Lake Tribune