Pick A Narrative To Support Journalists

Rallying around the Local Journalism Sustainability Act should be an easy task.  

After all, it’s about helping local news operations get through a rough patch.   

Anyone hear about the pandemic and an uneven economy with labor and product shortages?  

This just in: Some newspapers are skeptics about aid from Congress, even if we are talking about temporary tax credits.  

Not surprised.  

Skepticism is baked into the fiber of journalism. Bless all skeptical journalists.   

But this is different.   

Allow The Relevance Project to offer a set of narratives that will help newsrooms and publishers get to YES, as in, Yes, The LJSA is a good solution. We need it.   

America’s Newspapers continues to provide updates and advocacy for The LJSA. Nice picture of my SNPA colleague Leonard Woolsey of Texas.

Background: I’ve read several excellent commentaries advocating for the tax credits proposed for subscribers, advertisers and news organizations (for employing journalists). The bill is being remade in the sausage factory known as Congress, and industry advocate America’s Newspapers says only a five-year credit for local newspapers to employ and adequately compensate journalists is in the budget reconciliation bill. Stay tuned.  

(If you want to read the bill itself, click here to review the U.S. Senate version.)   

For the fence-sitters, presented for your consideration are 10 storylines that offer comfort in backing The LJSA. Pick one you like and run with it:       

#1: The benefit is limited. It’s not forever. That runs counter to how Washington works. But it gives newspapers some breathing room to get back to transforming their businesses in a chaotic digital world. Besides, we eat deadlines for lunch. And expanding journalism is an excellent five-year — and beyond — goal.   

#2: Helping business and creating new jobs — which government does a lot to stimulate growth and economic development — shouldn’t discriminate against the business of newspapering. And, by the way, we’ve paid plenty of taxes over the years.      

#3: This is federal help for small-town America and its main local news sources. It’s not about national news, as NO national news organizations can qualify. So, there’s no conflict.       

#4: Consider it payment — finally — for all of those letters to voters that community newspapers have published from the serving members of Congress. Newsprint is expensive, you know.       

#5: Think of it as a make credit for all of the political advertising that went to TV because candidates didn’t have to advertise in print since the newspaper did such a good job covering elections. (Bang head here.)      

#6: More journalists in jobs are good for a thriving community. Good for an enlightened democracy as well. Good for informed decision-making. (Add your own reasons.) Just plain good.       

#7: This is no handout. Newspapers still need to do the hard work of reporting in-depth, earning trust, replacing misinformation with facts, and informing the public on news they need to know.       

#8: You can still advocate with your Congressional representatives that loyal subscribers and advertisers should be rewarded with tax credits for supporting newspapers and being informed voters. Helping local is the watchword. Keep fighting for local.      

#9: There are NO coverage strings attached. Good government should welcome scrutiny and accountability anyway.  Full steam ahead.     

#10: This is justified compensation for Washington letting big tech gobble up advertising without any liability for the damage they’ve caused to local news. This is a stopgap until Congress can update laws that fix social media.       

Many newspaper trade associations have put their reputations on the line to advocate this worthwhile solution in Washington. They want their members to succeed and the newspaper industry to thrive at a time when trusted news sources are vital to a healthy democracy.       

If you don’t like any of the narratives above, please craft your own. Share it with your state association and send it to your representative in Congress.       

Sustain journalism. Keep it strong. That’s the Relevant Point.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

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