Bipartisan Legislation Bolstering Local Journalism Moves Through Congress

Rolled newspaper with the headline Local News
Rolled newspaper with the headline Local News. Illustration from 123rf.

Federal legislation that aims to bolster local media outlets was reintroduced in the current congressional session and has a growing number of bipartisan co-sponsors.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was reintroduced on June 16 in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), after being initially introduced in July of last year. 

The measure was included in the House Ways and Means Committee’s budget reconciliation mark up.

The bill would provide up to $250 annually per individual to cover 80% of subscription fees to local newspapers for the first tax year and 50% for subsequent tax years. It would also provide up to $50,000 per year to reduce employment taxes for local media outlets to hire and pay journalists.

Additionally, the legislation subsidizes up to $5,000 per year for a small business to cover 80% of advertising with local media the first year after this act takes effect, and up to $2,500 per year for another four years to cover 50% of such advertising.

Among the bipartisan supporters of the measure from New York include Democrat U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi, Carolyn Maloney and Grace Meng; and Republican U.S. Reps. John Katko, Lee Zeldin and Claudia Tenney.

Suozzi, one of the original cosponsors of the bill, expressed his support for the bill, highlighting the purpose of local journalism, saying that serious help must be brought to local news organizations.

“Local papers like AM New York and the dozens of other papers across New York City help keep the public educated and up to date. But over the last decades, these papers and thousands of others across the country have faced economic struggles,” said Suozzi. 

Meng expressed how important it is to have a free and independent press, calling it one of the hallmarks of democracy. 

“Our local media works to ensure that residents in local communities are informed about issues that impact them and their neighborhoods. It is crucial to support our local news industry, and the Local Journalism Sustainability Act would help make sure this critical service that they provide to the community continues. It’s also good for our local economy, jobs and helping to ensure that local journalism thrives,” said Meng. 

Maloney echoed Meng’s sentiment, saying, “Local journalism is part and parcel to a thriving democracy and making sure these institutions can continue to report the news benefits every New Yorker.”

Other Republican U.S. Reps. supporting the measure Dan Newhouse (WA), Charles J. Fleischmann (TN),  David B. McKinley (WV), and Rodney Davis (IL). Other Democrats signing on as co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Jimmy Panetta (CA) and Eric Swalwell (CA).

Newhouse pointed out the necessity for accurate information, which has been under intense scrutiny during the pandemic. “By providing tax credits for readers and local businesses and by empowering our local journalists, we can begin to help our newspapers remain resilient and continue to provide important information and updates to our rural communities,” he said.