Rep. Newhouse takes role in helping local businesses, media survive COVID-19
Local news organizations and their communities have always been intimately connected and that connection is even more important during the economic and social upheaval that is occurring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
News organizations like The Wenatchee World, weekly newspapers and other media have played an essential role in the life of their communities, chronicling the important events, keeping an eye on local government and providing a platform for businesses to connect with customers.
It’s no secret that local media and local businesses alike have been struggling maintain sustainable business models for the long term — a future that is much more digital than in the past.
The shutdown has been devastating for small local businesses in particular, because it has forced consumers to buy more things online and in bigger stores that were able to remain open. Small businesses are at a competitive disadvantage to the big retailers but the impact they make in a community is significant in terms of employment and circulating dollars in the local economy.
As we seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need local retailers and news media for our communities to succeed.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, along with Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz), is leading a bipartisan effort to promote local economic resiliency by sponsoring the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. The measure would provide, on a short-term basis, tax credits for print and online news publications of up to $250 annually, a payroll credit for the compensation of journalists ($25,000 in the first year and $15,000 for the succeeding four years), and a credit for advertising in local media for up to $5,000 for the first year and $2,500 in the four succeeding years. Those credits would sunset after five years.
In effect, the measure would provide incentives that would help local businesses, newspaper customers and newspaper owners for a few years. If we’re going to have successful communities, we need people in the community who are informed, and we need our small local businesses to be successful as well.
“We need to give our local business owners every fighting chance to come out and try to (get) some of that market share (from online retailers) back,” said Francis Wick,
chief executive officer of Wick Media, owner of The Wenatchee World. Wick has been instrumental in working with Kirkpatrick, Newhouse and media representatives to come up with the legislation.
Local journalists and newspapers are essential to ensuring the public remains informed,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Local news is crucial – particularly within our rural communities in Central Washington – and our local journalists provide in-depth perspectives that inform their readership regarding local current events,” he added.
Critics will undoubtedly call this a bailout of the newspaper industry, but if it is, it’s a pretty lousy bailout. Unlike National Public Radio, local media gets no direct payments from the government, and that’s as it should be. Tax credits are far better at creating incentives as opposed to direct payments.
Congress has a bad habit of favoring big industries in stimulus packages to the detriment of smaller businesses. So, it makes sense to me for Congress to seek creative solutions like the Newspaper Sustainability Act to bolster local communities.
Local media companies have to adapt to a very different environment and this legislation would give them some short-term assistance to weather the coronavirus economic storm.
I appreciate the courage and vision shown by Newhouse to put his name on the line in this effort.
The economic recovery from the pandemic is almost certainly going to take a long time and be very difficult on small businesses and communities. Taking steps to mitigate some of those impacts and stimulate local business is a savvy approach to rebuilding our local economies.