Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly is among three senators who introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021 on Thursday, a bill that would help local newspapers reach viability through tax credits.
Kelly, D-Ariz., and Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., co-sponsored the bill. The Senate filing comes five weeks after a similar bill was introduced in the House.
“I think it’s really important to these towns and smaller cities,” Kelly said Thursday. “These local journalists have really been struggling lately and the pandemic made it worse. We’ve got a lot of newspapers and local broadcasters who have failed because of the way the industry has changed and I think it’s important we figure out a way to help them out.”
Neither of Louisiana’s two Republican senators, John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, have signed on to co-sponsor the act. Neither senator replied to requests for comment on the bill. Previously, a spokesman for Rep. Clay Higgins said the congressman was watching the progress of the bill in the House, but did not reply when asked if Higgins supported the measure.
Kelly said he was drawn to the legislation because it is consumer- and market-focused.
“The community’s going to have to be on board with this, too,” he said. “It’s more of like, ‘We’re all in this together’ approach.”
U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., first introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act in the House in July 2020. It drew 78 co-sponsors but didn’t make it out of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Kirkpatrick and Newhouse reintroduced the bill on June 16 as HR 3940. Currently, it has 28 co-sponsors — 21 Democrats and seven Republicans.
The act would sunset in five years and has the support of newspapers and industry groups across the country, including the National Newspapers Association, News Media Alliance and America’s Newspapers.
Cantwell, who has long backed legislation to support local news organizations, released a report in October on transformations in the news industry and the effects on local journalism. The report found that the newspaper industry has lost about 70 percent of revenue and 60 percent of its workforce in the past two decades.
The newspaper industry itself cites alarming figures. An estimated 2,000 newspapers have closed across the country since 2004, leaving thousands of communities without a local source of news and information, even as big-city metros continue to pull back on regional coverage.
Kelly said he’s encouraged at the bill’s chances this year.
“It always takes work, but, yes, I think we have a good shot at getting it passed,” he said.