Leadership turmoil in Congress could potentially help the local news industry in its quest for federal support, according to an update provided to publishers gathered in Chicago last week.
That’s in part because there’s growing appreciation of the industry’s dire situation and bipartisan support for federal intervention, such as tax credits to help save newsroom jobs.
“I think the reality is, unfortunately, many legislators have seen newspapers close in their districts, their districts are worse,” Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers, said during the trade group’s Senior Leadership Conference. “The towns that have lost their newspapers are not better off and they know that.”
Ridings and dozens of publishers lobbied for support in a Washington, D.C., “fly in” last month.
“Everyone I met with on both sides of the aisle were receptive,” he said.
Most publishers desperately need support as their businesses are disrupted by technological and consumer changes.
While the industry is evolving and finding new business models, that’s impeded by the unfair business practices of tech giants that were documented by Congress and federal and state regulators and are slowly being addressed in court.
Meanwhile two newspapers a week are closing, on average. Newspaper employment fell 70% since 2005, according to research by Northwestern University’s Medill School.
The key proposals are temporary payroll tax credits to preserve newsroom jobs and a bill that would enable newspapers to collectively negotiate agreements with tech platforms, where their stories are increasingly read.
“Newspapers will close if we don’t do something about this problem,” said Cameron Nutting Williams, chief revenue officer at Ogden Newspapers, a family-owned newspaper chain based in West Virginia.
Then there’s the imminent threat of generative artificial intelligence scraping, blending and repackaging online newspaper stories, potentially driving a final nail in the industry’s coffin.
The News/Media Alliance, another trade group, is drafting a legislative proposal to address what some publications are calling an “existential threat” from AI, according to its CEO, Danielle Coffey.
“There is no business model for our industry with some versions of AI,” she told the conference.
Informal polling found most publishers and news executives in attendance saw little to no profit in 2022. Some 39% expect to have fewer employees in 2025 and 31% expect to have more, according to a “show of hands” via electronic devices in the room.
Nutting Williams said many people don’t realize the severity of the situation and what happens when papers close.
“There’s a myth that if a newspaper closes something else will just come up behind it, something digital only, a nonprofit or something will come in behind it,” she said. “That has definitely happened in some cases but we also know that in a lot of smaller and rural communities that’s not going to happen or it doesn’t happen.”
Tax credits to sustain newsrooms while the industry retools for digital competition were first proposed in 2020 as the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. It also included a household credit for news subscriptions and credits for small businesses advertising locally. The newsroom credits came close to passing in 2021 as part of a pandemic relief spending package.
A scaled-down version, without the subscription credit, was introduced in July as the Community News and Small Business Support Act. U.S. Reps. Claudia Tenney, an upstate New York Republican, and Suzan DelBene, a Medina Democrat, are co-sponsors.
The bill, H.R. 4756, now has 13 Republican and 14 Democratic sponsors. Other Washington co-sponsors so far are U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Derek Kilmer.
America’s Newspapers has more details at supportcommunitynews.com.
Coffey’s group is leading the push for the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a temporary antitrust exemption that would allow news organizations to collectively bargain compensation agreements with Google and Facebook.
The dysfunction of Congress is an impediment, however. Coffey told the group that the JCPA has momentum in the Senate but the House situation is more than complicated.
JCPA is held up in part by the opposition of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Coffey told the group that if Jordan did become House speaker “he’ll have bigger fish to fry” and the bill could potentially progress.
The bill is also furiously opposed by the tech giants, even though they’ve voluntarily made digital-content deals with a few of the largest publishers in the U.S. Left out are the 6,000 or so local newspapers providing most of America’s essential civic journalism, and needing fairer compensation online to survive in their more digital future.
The dominant platforms are also paying publishers through content deals in Australia and Europe, and they’re negotiating with Canada’s government to implement a similar law it passed this year.
“We believe the momentum and the wave of compensation to newspapers for their fair market value is inevitable,” Coffey said. “And we’ll keep fighting for the value that we produce and that we provide to audiences across the country and around the world.”
October2, 2023 - More than a dozen members of America’s Newspapers participated in a Support Journalism Fly-In in Washington, D.C., last week. In all, more than 80 participants representing news publishers in 25 states attended the event, hosted by the News/Media Alliance. Danielle Coffey, president and CEO of the Alliance, said: “Our members are here in Washington today because they are passionate about quality journalism, and right now its future is at risk.”
The goal of the fly-in was for news-media representatives to advocate in person with their members of Congress for journalism — and the need for legislative action.
The participants asked their House members to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) when it is introduced, and to sign on as co-sponsors of the Community News and Small Business Support Act (H.R. 4756), as well as to provide protection from unlawful scraping of content by artificial intelligence systems.
Senate members were asked to support the Journalism and Competition Preservation Act (JCPA — S. 1094), and to sign on to the Community News and Small Business Support Act when it is introduced in the Senate. They also were made aware of the need to provide protection from unlawful scraping of content by artificial intelligence systems.
America’s Newspapers has been highly focused on working with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New York) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Washington) for the introduction of the Community News and Small Business Support Act (H.R. 4756), and now to gain co-sponsors. The bill was introduced in July, and as of Friday, the bill has 21 bipartisan co-sponsors.
Cameron Nutting Williams, CRO of Ogden Newspapers, and president of America’s Newspapers, said: “The fly-in was a unique opportunity to sit face-to-face with lawmakers from across the political spectrum as we laid out the challenges of the local news business. Regardless of party, every lawmaker has felt the impact of their local newspapers and knows that their communities would suffer if they were lost. In an environment where politicians agree on so little, I continue to believe we can rally support behind the immediate, much needed support for local newsrooms and small businesses that H.R. 4756 provides.”
"Meeting with our nation's leaders from both sides of the aisle reinforced that the support for local news is the rare nonpartisan issue," said Zachary Richner, director, Richner Communications, Inc. and nominated as a director of America’s Newspapers. “The Community News and Small Business Support Act will bring back local jobs to community newsrooms, strengthen Main Street businesses, and increase access to information that reflects hometown values. I am increasingly optimistic that our federal representatives understand the urgency of passing this critical piece of legislation not only for our industry, but also for our communities and for our democracy. It's incredible to see the progress that America's Newspapers has made, under the leadership of Dean Ridings, on pushing forward good public policy on behalf of the local news industry. Thank you to Dean, the America's Newspapers staff — as well as Danielle Coffey at the News/Media Alliance — for their dogged commitment to preserving the Fourth Estate."
Alan Fisco, president of The Seattle Times Company and co-chair of America’s Newspapers Legislative Committee, said: “Awesome and worth every penny and my time. We cannot let up. There is definitely growing understanding of our industry situation, negative outcomes and support. I truly believe this is a result of our ongoing efforts, including 'walking the halls'. Budget for this next year. It could be the best dollars ever spent!”
Dean Ridings, America’s Newspapers CEO, met with eight House members during the Fly-In. Ridings said: “Everyone I have met with understands the need, and the value, to support local news organizations. I didn’t get a negative reaction or any serious push back from anyone. Plus, I am so encouraged by the strong showing of bipartisan support. Support for local journalism is truly not a partisan issue.”
America’s Newspapers will host a fly-in next Spring and will send out the dates after the 2024 Congressional Calendar is announced.
Learn more about:
Sponsor: Rep. Tenney, Claudia [R-NY-24]
* = Original co-sponsor
|Rep. DelBene, Suzan K. [D-WA-1]*||07/19/2023|
|Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1]||08/22/2023|
|Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]||08/22/2023|
|Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9]||09/08/2023|
|Rep. Pappas, Chris [D-NH-1]||09/08/2023|
|Rep. Lawler, Michael [R-NY-17]||09/08/2023|
|Rep. Carter, Earl L. "Buddy" [R-GA-1]||09/08/2023|
|Rep. Molinaro, Marcus J. [R-NY-19]||09/14/2023|
|Rep. Tokuda, Jill N. [D-HI-2]||09/14/2023|
|Rep. Graves, Garret [R-LA-6]||09/21/2023|
|Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6]||09/21/2023|
|Rep. D'Esposito, Anthony [R-NY-4]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Ryan, Patrick [D-NY-18]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Tiffany, Thomas P. [R-WI-7]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Webster, Daniel [R-FL-11]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Bilirakis, Gus M. [R-FL-12]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Davids, Sharice [D-KS-3]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Garbarino, Andrew R. [R-NY-2]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Crow, Jason [D-CO-6]||09/28/2023|
|Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA-41]||10/12/2023|
|Rep. Bonamici, Suzanne [D-OR-1]||10/12/2023|
|Rep. LaLota, Nick [R-NY-1]||10/12/2023|
|Rep. Caraveo, Yadira [D-CO-8]||10/12/2023|
|Rep. Stauber, Pete [R-MN-8]||10/12/2023|
|Rep. Magaziner, Seth [D-RI-2]||10/12/2023|
In addition to America's Newspapers, this legislation also is supported by:
International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors
Rebuild Local News
New England Newspaper and Press Association
Alabama Press Association
Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington
Arizona Newspapers Association
Arkansas Press Association
Colorado Press Association
Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association
Florida Press Association
Georgia Press Association
Hoosier State Press Association
Idaho Allied Dailies
Illinois Press Association
Iowa Newspaper Association
Kansas Press Association
Kentucky Press Association
Louisiana Press Association
Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association
Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association
Michigan Press Association
Minnesota Newspaper Association
Mississippi Press Association
Missouri Press Association
Montana Press Association
Nebraska Press Association
Nevada Press Association
New Mexico Press Association
New York Press Association
North Carolina Press Association
Ohio News Media Association
Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association
Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association
Rebuild Local News Coalition
South Carolina Press Association
South Dakota Newspaper Association
Tennessee Press Association
Texas Press Association
Utah Press Association
Vermont Press Association
Washington Newspaper Publishers Association
West Virginia Press Association
Wisconsin Newspapers Association
Wyoming Press Association
And many others ...
Associations wanting to add their names to this list of supporters should email email@example.com.