Support for Local Journalism Sustainability Act grows


Hello everyone,

Support has been growing for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

The act, now before Congress, would provide payroll tax credits to news organizations that retain or hire journalists.


The payroll tax credit provision gets Congress  out of the business of choosing winners and losers. It might create a headache for the Internal Revenue Service in detecting fraudsters, but none of this is new.

At present, the legislation includes tax credits for chain-owned papers and broadcast outlets operated by giants like News Journal owner  Gannett. Gannett, which has a collection of 250 newspapers around the country, now controls a large chunk of Delaware’s daily and weekly newspaper roster following a merger with Gatehouse.

As advertising revenues plunged,  chains took an ax to local coverage, sometimes operating “ghost newsrooms” with little coverage of school boards, town councils, etc. There have been signs of an upturn in revenues, as the economy recovers but don’t expect a hiring surge.

Despite these challenges, legacy media still accounts for much of the investigative reporting taking place nationwide, despite layoffs, mergers, and buyouts taken by the veteran staff.

The revelations of sexual abuse by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar might never have seen the light of day had the newsroom at Gannett’s Indianapolis Star not sprung into action after receiving an email from a victim. Budgets were shifted and other steps were taken to reduce the impact of corporate cost cuts.

Meanwhile, LION (Local Independent Online Publishers)  has worked to ensure that small publishers are not on the outside looking in.  

Corporate players  have turned to lobbyists from D.C.’s “Gucci Gulch”  for a deal that provides more benefits for their private equity investors. 

LION members who cover cities and towns large and small have worked hard to serve as community watchdogs in areas where legacy media outlets have stepped away. Delaware Business Now is a longtime  LION member.

The bill has moved forward, thanks to a united front from large and small players. 

A bit of good news on the local front came yesterday when Delaware’s  Kathy Jennings joined other state attorneys general in supporting the bill. 

“Anyone who’s hit a paywall on a local news story can tell that more and more of America’s local newsrooms are struggling economically. That should concern all of us. Journalists provide a public service that we all rely on. Investigative reporting alone — which benefits every single person in this country — falls disproportionately to America’s state and local newsrooms,” Jennings wrote. “That’s why I was glad to sign on to a letter advocating for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which would help America’s local newsrooms navigate economic headwinds that have, for years, decimated the news media, and have especially harmed local media,” 

It would be good to see the state’s Congressional delegation make a similar declaration.

A lot can happen in the coming weeks. The $1 billion price tag for the bill is dwarfed by the $3 trillion reconciliation measure,  but it’s still a lot of money.

For now, there is more than a ray of hope that the bill could at least slow the growth of news deserts and ghost newsrooms that have cropped up here and elsewhere. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.