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OP-ED: Supporting hometown newspapers

Dawn Burleigh,
General Manager/Editor

We are grateful in the support you have shown The Orange Leader as we have had to weather the past 18 months from the COVID Crisis, two hurricanes and a winter storm.

One thing you can do to continue your support is to subscribe to the paper.

Subscribe, especially online, where readership had been increasing but subscriptions had not. Giving away our content online, with no subscription revenue to help compensate our journalists who keep the community informed, was simply unsustainable as we headed into a period of unprecedented disruption in advertising revenue, historically our lifeblood.

The combination of digital subscription growth; strategic expense reduction, especially reduced frequency of print publication; a Paycheck Protection Program loan; and loyal employees who work tirelessly on behalf of the newspaper and a community they love has helped us navigate the crisis to date.

We ask that you keep subscribing, and encourage friends and family to do the same. There’s a new way to help that will both lighten your taxload and support community newspapers. Call your U.S. representative and senators and ask them to support bipartisan legislation called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which, at this writing, has 39 cosponsors in Congress on both sides of the aisle during an era when Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything. In the Senate, at this time there are six co-sponsors.

Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a series of three tax credits aimed at sustaining the local news business in the years to come. The credits are as follows:

  • A five-year non-refundable credit of up to $250 annually to incentivize individual subscriptions to local newspapers. The credit would cover 80% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% of subscription costs in the subsequent four years.
  • A five-year refundable credit for local newspapers like ours to employ and adequately compensate journalists.
  • A five-year non-refundable tax credit that would incentivize small- to medium-sized businesses to advertise with local newspapers, as well as local radio and television stations. The credit would cover up to $5,000 of advertising costs in the first year and $2,500 in the subsequent four years.

Taken together, these credits would help sustain our newspaper and thousands of others through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

For the purposes of this bill, local newspaper is defined as a print or digital publication if:

  • The primary content of such publication is original content derived from primary sources and relating to news and current events.
  • Such publication primarily serves the needs of a regional or local community.
  • The publisher of such publication employs at least one local news journalist who resides in such regional or local community.
  • The publisher of such publication employs not greater than 750 employees.

Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com