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Support tax credits for subscribers and advertisers

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Local Journalism Sustainability Act would create tax credits for subscribers, advertisers and newspapers

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    The news business is an odd one. It is the only business the job of which is to tell people what they don’t want to know. The truth has never been an easy sell, but if you want it, please support it.
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Would you subscribe to a newspaper, any newspaper, if you could claim a tax credit for 80 percent of what the subscription cost you? If you run a local business, would a tax credit of up to $5,000 make it more likely for you to advertise in a newspaper?

An 80 percent tax credit for subscribing to The Vindicator would amount to $32. Would you be more likely to buy a $40 subscription to The Vindicator if at tax time you could claim a tax credit of $32? Eighty percent of a Houston Chronicle digital subscription would be around $120 so an annual subscription to the Chronicle would ultimately cost you only $30. Would that tempt you into subscribing to the Chronicle online?

There is a bill before Congress now that would create such a tax credit. It is called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced in Congress today by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R) and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) to create tax credits for subscriptions to local newspapers, for businesses advertising in local papers and for newspapers employing journalists.

Here’s how representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse describe their bill:

LOCAL JOURNALISM SUSTAINABILITY ACT — a series of three tax-credits aimed at sustaining and providing a pathway to viability for the local journalism industry in the years to come. The credits are as follows:

CREDIT FOR LOCAL NEWSPAPER SUBSCRIPTIONS

  • A five-year non-refundable credit of up to $250 annually to incentivize individual subscriptions to local newspapers, defined as print and online publications which primarily produce content related to news and current events and which have a majority of their readership within the publication’s state of operation or within 200 miles.
  • The credit can cover 80% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% of subscription costs in the subsequent four years.

CREDIT FOR ADVERTISING IN LOCAL NEWSPAPERS AND LOCAL MEDIA

  • A five-year non-refundable tax credit that would incentivize small-to-medium sized businesses to advertise with local newspapers (utilizing the same definition as above), as well as local radio and television stations.
  • The credit can cover up to $5,000 of advertising costs in the first year and $2,500 in the subsequent four years.

PAYROLL CREDIT FOR COMPENSATION OF JOURNALISTS

  • A five-year refundable credit for local newspapers (utilizing the same definition as above) to employ and adequately compensate journalists.
  • The credit can be up to $25,000 in the first year and $15,000 in the subsequent four years.        

Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse said in an email to their congressional colleagues, “These credits will encourage Americans to subscribe to local publications, help those publications retain and compensate journalists, and provide businesses and publications alike with much-needed advertising dollars. Taken together, implementing these credits would help sustain local journalism throughout the United States, and we certainly believe that local journalism — a bedrock pillar of American life — deserves sustaining. If you agree, please join us as an original cosponsor of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.”

Despite all of the politically motivated attacks on the press, most Americans know the value of a free and independent press to the survival of democracy. From the huge national newspapers down to your small town papers like The Vindicator, it is the press that gets the word out about what your government is up to. Just as important as that, it is the local newspapers that provide small businesses with an affordable means of reaching potential customers. Newspapers are in the business of helping build other businesses.

This is not about print versus web. It is about the survival of paid subscription newspapers, whether printed or online, answerable to their readers versus free publications answerable to only their advertisers and their owners’ consciences. It’s our paying readers who keep us honest.

Please, contact your congressman and senators and urge them to vote for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. It will come to a vote in the House soon, so don’t wait.

To reach Rep. Brian Babin’s satellite office in Dayton, call 832-780-0966. His Washington DC office number is 202-225-1555. Or, to send the congressman an email, go to babin.house.gov/contact/.

 

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