Supporting Local Media Has Become Patriotic
The “Building Main Street, not Wall Street” weekly column rarely ventures into the political arena; however, I feel compelled to bring this issue to your attention as this impacts every local community in such a dramatic fashion. Additionally, this will provide an opportunity for you to make a significant impact in your community in a very simple and yes, a patriotic way.
I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” One might rightfully ask, how does this famous quote by a Founding Father relate to myself and our community today? Let me explain.
It is no secret that local media is a tough business, in fact, since the outbreak of Covid-19 earlier this year, most local media companies have lost a significant portion of their revenue and many are nearing a breaking point. Hundreds of communities around the country have already lost their local media voice. When a community loses their media voice, they lose a valuable local information conduit for the community. Additionally, they also lose the messenger that spreads local information to the outside world. This is the same local voice our Founding Fathers referred to when considering the value and importance of assuring freedom of the press in maintaining our Democratic-Republic.
In response to the current pandemic and crisis in local media, Francis Wick, one of the brightest young minds in the news-media industry and CEO of Wick Communications worked with his local congressional representatives in Arizona to create what has become known as the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act”. This powerful bipartisan piece of legislation is actually simple. This legislation empowers local communities to stand-up and provide support to their local media companies in a community-wide way saving them money at the same time. Without boring you with extensive detail, let me summarize this legislation.
- It provides tax credits (much better than a deduction) to local media supporters for simply supporting their local media company by subscribing to their service. This now makes supporting the local media financially appealing for subscribers.
- It provides small local businesses tax credits for advertising in their local media. Many small businesses have very tight budgets. Due to this, advertising, marketing and branding are difficult without those deep pockets of financial resources. This legislation provides a shot in the arm to any local business with fewer than 1000 employees. This will be a huge benefit for local businesses and thus the community.
- It provides tax credits for your local media companies to employ local journalists in their markets. In order to provide accurate and timely news, it takes a dedicated staff. This legislation allows local media companies to invest in the communities in which they serve.
Often, we ask ourselves, how can I make a difference? I am only one person and one person really hasn’t much of a voice in government. Nothing could be further from the truth. When a local media company folds, studies have shown the cost of local government increases 30% within 4-5 years, civic pride diminishes, voting numbers drop, economic vitality declines and volunteering fades away. This is a unique opportunity that allows just a few voices to make a dramatic impact in the future of your local community.
What can I do now? That is very simple, reach out by phone to your Federal House and Senate representatives and ask them to support this critical piece of legislation. Follow that up with a letter. Let them know how important local media is to your community. Then share this column with your family, friends and neighbors, your city leaders, your Chamber and/or Main Street organizations and encourage them to do the same.
Time is of the essence, the economic pressures on local communities are mounting. As pressure increases, so will the pressure on your local media company. Now is not the time to be the summer soldier or sunshine patriot that Thomas Paine mentioned. Now is the time to move quickly and take action that can be the difference between your community losing the freedom of the press or maintaining it. Being a patriot doesn’t always mean fighting a war or placing yourself in harm’s way, it can also be the little, yet powerful efforts of the hidden few that save a community – now is one of those moments. Your community awaits your efforts!
John A. Newby, author of “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street ” a National column dedicated to helping communities combine synergies with local media allowing them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where Truly Local is lost to Amazon and Wall Street chains. His email is: john@360MediaAlliance.net