Sen. Cantwell among three senators to introduce legislation supporting local news

Senator Cantwell releases statement on budget deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell is one of three senators to introduce legislation that would help financially support local news organizations.

Cantwell, along with Democrat senators Mark Kelly of Arizona and Ron Wyden of Oregon, introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021 on Thursday, which would help support news organizations through tax credits to incentivize hiring more journalists, subscriptions and advertising from local small businesses. It would support local newspapers, digital publications, television and radio.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made it crystal clear that local reporters and newsrooms are essential to keeping the public informed and safe, but their importance spans well beyond health emergencies,” said Cantwell. “At its core, local news is about holding the powerful accountable. The strength of our democracy is based in truth and transparency, and local newsrooms are on the ground in our communities asking the critical questions, countering misinformation, and telling our stories. We have to protect these vital parts of our communities, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Cantwell’s office said she released an extensive report, in October last year, examining the transformation of local news in the information age and impacts to local journalism. The report found that over the past two decades, the local newspaper industry has lost around 70 percent of its total revenue, and newspapers have been forced to let go of more than 40,000 employees, a full 60 percent of their journalistic workforce. Actor Chris Evans interviewed Cantwell about this issue for his nonpartisan organization, A Starting Point.

“Local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations are pillars of our community, bringing Arizonans trusted local news, information about community events and the latest on public health updates in their area,” said Kelly. “The pandemic made an already difficult financial situation for these news providers even harder, which is why I support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. By providing tax credits for individuals to support local news outlets, they can continue to provide important coverage for Arizona readers, listeners and viewers.”

Cantwell’s office said, since 2004, over 1,800 communities have lost their local newspapers. Since the COVID pandemic began, 37,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut.

“The decline of local news has had devastating effects on our communities. Local news has often been the only window into the city council or mayor’s office. Without these outlets, these important institutions in our communities go uncovered,” said Wyden. “Further, the decline of local news has only fueled the growth of misinformation, as Americans lose their most trusted sources of information. As the son of a journalist, these developments trouble my greatly. Our bill would provide financial support to local news at this critical time for our democracy.”

Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona and Republic Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington introduced a similar bipartisan House version of the bill (H.R.3940) back in June.