OUR VIEW: Tax credit proposal would aid local journalism

NEW BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION in the U.S. House would aid local journalism by offering tax credits to advertisers and subscribers.

The measure is supported by Congressman Derek Kilmer of the 6th Congressional District — which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

There’s a hunger for accurate and useful news coverage right now — even more so than usual — because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic and because we’re now only a few months away from a consequential election for the state and the nation.

A look at the most read stories in recent days on The Peninsula Daily News’ online publication, www.peninsuladailynews.com, shows that the majority addressed either the pandemic or breaking news stories.

But that demand also comes at a time when the pandemic has tightened budgets for families and businesses, two sources of support that local journalism — in particular newspapers — have long depended upon to underwrite that coverage: subscriptions and advertising.

Like a lot of businesses, The Peninsula Daily News and its parent, Sound Publishing, have faced tough decisions to cut costs while still meeting the demand to provide news and community coverage that informs and entertains. And those decisions are little different than what other local journalism providers are having to confront throughout the nation.

Already dealing with dwindling losses in revenue from subscriptions and advertising, newspapers across the country have been hit even harder since the beginning of the pandemic. In May, The New York Times estimated that some 36,000 employees at U.S. news media companies had been laid off, furloughed or had their work hours and pay reduced since the pandemic’s arrival. The Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and other Sound publications have not escaped such cost-cutting measures.

But as important as the work of local journalism is, a business such as a newspaper can only empathize with decisions by subscribers or advertisers to economize and cut expenses where they can.

Still, when a bad economy forces such cuts, the loss of local journalism affects the ability of local governments, businesses and nonprofits to communicate with residents and customers, feeding a downward cycle of diminishing returns for the entire community.

But there may be a model for some relief in the federal Paycheck Protection Program — passed by Congress in the early months of the pandemic — that has helped businesses across the country and on the North Olympic Peninsula. As many as 10,000 businesses here have received up to $10 million to keep employees on the job.

Bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, rather than provide direct grants or loans to local news publications, however, would establish tax credit programs that would encourage local news subscribers and businesses to support their local publications.

Introduced last month in the House by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., representing the state’s 4th Congressional District, and by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, the legislation would establish three tax credit programs:

• Businesses of less than 1,000 employees would be eligible for a five-year tax credit — up to $5,000 in the first year and $2,500 in subsequent years, to purchase advertising in local newspapers and online news media;

• Subscribers to local media would be eligible for a five-year tax credit of $250 annually to support local publications; and

• Local newspapers and media would be eligible for a tax credit of up to $50,000 to be used as compensation to hire local journalists.

In effect, readers and local businesses get help to purchase subscriptions or advertising, and local publicans benefit from that support.

Local journalists and newspapers are essential to ensuring the public and local communities remain informed, Newhouse said in a statement when the act was introduced.

“By providing tax credits for readers and local businesses and by empowering our local journalists, we can begin to help our newspapers remain resilient and continue to provide important information and updates to our rural communities,” he said.

The legislation also has the support of industry leaders, including Dean Ridings, chief executive of America’s Newspapers, and Mark Adelman, president of the National Newspaper Association.

“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act includes measures that will not only help newspapers continue to serve as vital information first responders in their community, but also help local businesses recover and widen access to trusted local news sources,” Ridings said.

And the act comes at a critical time.

“If there is anything worse than losing journalists during a pandemic, it is losing journalists during a pandemic in an election year,” Adelman added. “A lot is at stake in our democracy right now.”

The Peninsula Daily News appreciates everything members of the public have done to support local journalism. We ask that readers and subscribers encourage their members of Congress to support this legislation, and if adopted, take advantage of the tax credits to further support the work we do in the community.

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: The story of ‘Lightning Boldt’

“LIGHTNING BOLDT,” IS a biography of Judge George H. Boldt by John… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The best Mother’s Day present

MOTHER’S DAY IS coming up. I had a great mother. I know… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The best Arbor Day ever

HOW WAS YOUR Arbor Day? Traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in… Continue reading

OUR VIEW: New York Times syndication service to add in-depth reporting

While we take great pride in being your source for local news… Continue reading

Pat Neal, left, and former Peninsula Daily News editor and publisher John Brewer. (Pat Neal)
PAT NEAL: Free speech isn’t free

There were giants in the land. We lost one last week. John… Continue reading

The Peninsula Daily News office building, at 305 W. First St. in Port Angeles, will soon be on the commercial real estate market. But staff will relocate to another Port Angeles building in the coming months.
OUR VIEW: We’re moving, but we will remain in community

THIS OLD BUILDING, steeped in history, whispers stories of bygone days. Within… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The first salmon

THE BLOOMING OF the salmonberries marks a change in the season. In… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Spill some salmon here

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. The bad news was… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The daylight digs

THE END OF steelhead fishing season was the day my universe came… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Twilight forever and ever

THERE’S A DISTURBING trend in modern journalism for reporters to use fleeting… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A question of flowers

THANK YOU FOR reading this. Sometimes I think that if you didn’t… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The de-extinction of the 100-pound salmon

Who says there’s no good news? Recently scientists claimed they are on… Continue reading