The federal law on the sustainability of local journalism is now before the Senate and the House.

Federal law on the sustainability of local journalism is now before the Senate and the House of Commons

(Rick Bowmer | AP Photo) In this file photo from April 20, 2016, shows the Salt Lake Tribune sign in Salt Lake City.

“If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?” If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?

Rabbi Hillel

Sometimes an institution just needs to stand up and speak for itself, to be honest about the value it brings to the community and what it needs to keep that contribution going. Even though it may sound selfish.

But if a newspaper serves the community, like this one and many others, then helping the newspaper helps our communities. A newspaper, or news site, provides its readers with the information they absolutely need to fulfill their role as intelligent and informed voters, citizens, parents, businessmen, patients, government officials. , travelers and consumers.

This is where the federal Local Journalism Sustainability Act – now before both the Senate and the House – Between.

At least on the House side, the bill is bipartisan. Unfortunately, no member of the Utah Congressional delegation is yet listed as a co-sponsor. To serve their communities, our Senators and Members of Parliament should support them.

The measure is necessary because, over the past two decades, we have seen how the impact of local news agencies does not match their sources of income. The loss of newspaper ad revenue, especially classified ad revenue, on the internet was quickly followed by the emergence of many websites that provide something that may sound like news for free – and were worth just as much.

As a result, the number of journalists employed in the United States has fallen by about 25% – by some 30,000 greyhounds – since 2008. And, since 2004, the nation has lost 2,100 logs, including 71 dailies.

These losses do not only threaten the viability of newspapers as businesses. Without consistent and aggressive coverage of local news and information by independent journalists, the very process of self-government becomes untenable. What rushes to fill the void is often ideologically biased, or outright false, information that does not inform and empower so much as to divide and confuse.

The Salt Lake Tribune is among those who have had to cut staff, reach and the number of days printing a large-format newspaper. But he was given new life and new hope with his 2019 transition to a community-owned nonprofit. Thanks to our many supporters, local and national, the size of our news organization is growing and we are providing more breaking news and more in-depth coverage of Utah’s issues.

Not that we, and all the other news organizations, couldn’t use a little more financial assurance.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would strengthen the fiscal health of news agencies, both for-profit and not-for-profit, with three key tax benefits, only one of which would go directly to the newspaper.

If passed, the bill would provide readers with a tax credit of up to $ 250 for subscribing or donating to a local news organization. It would offer small businesses that buy ads in their local publications a tax credit of up to $ 5,000.

Nor is an amount large enough to get people who don’t want to read the newspaper, or who don’t see the point of advertising it, to spend their money that way. This means that newspapers would always have to meet a market demand (or they must be relevant) to benefit from these tax breaks.

The bill would also provide a refundable tax credit of up to $ 25,000 to newspapers to make it easier to hire more journalists, editors and photographers. The fact that it is a payroll tax rather than an income tax makes it as accessible to nonprofits as it is to for-profit organizations, as exempt nonprofits income tax must still pay payroll taxes to support Social Security and Medicare.

The beauty of this idea is that it does not put the government, or any of its subdivisions, in the position of choosing which media outlets will benefit from it. Thus, there will be no favoritism for or against newspapers that will be in the good graces of the political party in power at any given time.

The numbers are also small enough that their biggest advantage is for community publications – serving small towns and individual neighborhoods or ethnic groups in big cities – as opposed to the big metro dailies.

(It’s also true that the bravest and daring publications serving the community will benefit alongside the shallow newspapers owned by absentees who are stripped in part by vulture hedge funds. Cannot have it all.)

In addition to supporting The Tribune, or other community news organizations, with their time and money, anyone who sees the value of independent journalism should inform their members of Congress how they feel.

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