Now is the time to support local news

Congress has the ability to pass legislation that benefits all local citizens, businesses, and even protects our democracy. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, LJSA for short, should be included as part of any upcoming reconciliation bill that Congress considers. The LJSA is a thoughtful piece of legislation that would provide the necessary support for local news organizations, including local newspapers, to ensure their viability as they continue to move towards a digital future.

Many members of Congress have seen what happens when a newspaper closes in their district, and they see the impact it has on the community. That is why many of our leaders, including Senators Cantwell, Schumer, Manchin, Wyden and others, have stepped up their support for the LJSA. And while other members of Congress may not yet have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, many recognize the importance and necessity of maintaining strong local news organizations in their communities.

To understand what the LJSA is, it is important to understand what it is not. This is a temporary measure to help newspapers at this critical time, and it expires after five years. The LJSA will not help national news outlets, but it will support local news outlets and help them invest in their newsrooms to continue to cover issues that affect local towns and cities. The result is a bill that provides a bridge for local newspapers as they continue to evolve their business models.

So why is it so important for Congress to pass the LJSA now? Quite simply, the future of local newspapers in many parts of the country hangs in the balance. Over the past 15 years, more than a quarter of all newspapers have disappeared, and many more have been forced to staff reductions that have reduced coverage of topics that impact local citizens. The way people get their news and advertise their local businesses is rapidly shifting to digital, and local newspapers continue to be hurt by Big Tech companies that use their original content without fair compensation. To make matters worse, newspapers, like many other industries, have been financially impacted by the pandemic, even though the coverage provided by local newspapers was more vital than ever.

The current economic challenges have only accelerated the need for Congress to act quickly on the LJSA. As inflation affects everyone, it has made the environment for local newspapers even more difficult. The cost of employee retention has increased. The cost of newsprint has increased by 30% over last year, and the cost of gasoline used to deliver the newspaper has increased by more than 50% over the past two years. Many newspaper haulers travel hundreds or even thousands of miles each week. These increases have pushed many local newspapers on the verge of further cuts or even going out of business.

Who wins with the passing of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act? Clearly, local newspapers win by getting the support they need to continue investing in local news reporting. But the real winners are the communities that keep their local newspaper. Whether monitoring the actions of local government, reporting on the state of local schools, tracking local health trends, or providing the latest restaurant reviews and sales information, local newspapers enable a community to stay connected and informed.

We encourage everyone to contact their representatives in Congress and ask them to support local journalism. Whether it is the inclusion of the LJSA in the budget reconciliation bill or a standalone bill, now is the time to act. This is a rare opportunity for the government to act on something that benefits everyone.

America’s Newspapers is the trade association for thousands of newspapers across the United States. www.newspapers.org

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