The Rebuild Local News coalition is pushing for a comprehensive list of tax credits to keep afloat local newsrooms, such as a tax refund for local news digital subscribers, payroll tax credits for hiring and retaining local reporters, and a tax credit for small businesses to advertise in local news outlets.
Rebuild Local News’s original aim was to get sweeping legislation to protect local journalism passed at the national level, but Waldman said the new Republican-majority congress makes that an unlikely reality given the party’s hostility to the mainstream media. Instead, the organization is pivoting to focus on getting legislation passed in as many states as possible.
Waldman said it was the Covid-19 pandemic that really brought into focus the urgent need for help to America’s beleaguered local news outlets whose mass closures have created “news deserts” across the US.
According to a 2022 report from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, the US continues to lose newspapers “at a rate of two per week”, contributing to the growing crisis of “news deserts”, communities without dedicated news coverage. Research has shown new deserts lead to a less informed and engaged voter base. A 2018 study from the University of North Carolina found 1,800 local newspapers had shuttered in the US since 2004.
A major contributing factor to news deserts are the financial firms and hedge funds, like Alden Global Capital, buying up newspapers and slashing staff, and who have been widely accused of being more concerned about profits than journalistic integrity.