The community press of which we are a part – both print and digital – is suffering a serious crisis.
According to the Lenfest Institute of Journalism, since 2008 the number of newsroom employees fell by 30,000. Some 2,100 newspapers were closed, including 70 daily publications. Since the start of the pandemic, according to the Poynter Institute, nearly 100 small newsrooms across the country – some of them over 100 years old, some of them the only source of local news – have closed under the weight of the coronavirus. Many more suffer pay cuts and layoffs.
The rise of the Internet did not translate into increases in income for community media. Local advertising moved away from print media, depriving them of crucial sources of income.
But if the previous years had been negative for this industry, the impact of the COVID era is disastrous.
This publication, based on sacrifice and tenacity, continues to fulfill the mission of informing and helping our people.
Here we are, still. Aqui estamos todavía.
Because the community press plays an essential role in keeping communities informed as well as in the integration and assimilation of millions of immigrants.
In these times of misinformation and lies, when democracy depends on spreading the truth, when truthful news and real journalism are replaced by unverified conspiracy ideas on social media and planned misinformation, our mission is even more important.
On our pages, we encourage political participation and voting. We are the watchdog of local governments tempted by corruption.
Health, education, immigration reform, support for women, are pillars of our content. It is information that can be used in real life.
Attentive to this dangerous situation, dozens of congressmen and senators promote the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (HR 3940 in the House and S. 2434 in the Senate), aiming to include it in the gigantic Build Back Better plan.
Unlike the billions of dollars in direct aid that the government has provided to the banking, industrial, transportation and agriculture sectors among others, this Act does not consist of direct government gifts or subsidies, but rather provides tax incentives that support local newspapers and other local media.
The act would provide local newsrooms with a five-year credit of up to $25,000 to hire and retain journalists, and another for subscriptions to local news or donations to local non-profit news publishers. For small businesses, a five-year tax credit of up to $5,000 to spend on advertising in local news publications.
Hundreds of congressmen, senators, activists, analysts and community organizations work for this initiative, but it could be the victim of cuts in the scope of “Build Back Better”. It could fall.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021 is an essential measure in the fight for the development and survival of the press as a tool serving the community. It is imperative that it pass.
It is up to our representatives in both Houses to fight for the survival of the free community press in the service of our communities. Several of them are already doing it. That is what we ask of all.