Column: If you value community journalism, ask legislators to support Local Journalism Sustainability Act

Published 6:11 am Sunday, August 8, 2021

For 156 years, this community steadfastly has supported The Natchez Democrat.

We thank you for that. We appreciate you and we need your support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on us all. As a small community newspaper, small businesses in the Miss-Lou are our lifeline. The effects of the lockdown beginning in March 2020 battered small businesses here. That meant steep declines at our business, too.

Yet, our community needed what we provide — local information — more than ever. We are a business. We had to make difficult, heartbreaking decisions, like reducing the number of days per week that we publish a print newspaper, in order to continue to fulfill our mission.

Through it all, you supported us. Many times we were asked by members of our community about what they could do to help us. Our answer was the same: Subscribe. Subscribe either to our print edition or to our e-edition. Read our website, NatchezDemocrat.com, and you certainly do that. On average, more than 200,000 users view 1.5 million pages on our website each month.

Your support, along with the support of our experienced, loyal employees — and some help from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan — have helped us through what we hope were the most difficult months of the pandemic.

It’s been a very long year and in late spring and early summer, we all breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed our economy was not only coming back, but also coming back strong.

We are confident we will quickly handle the Delta variant and be able to continue our economic growth here.

Nonetheless, it will be a long time before any of us is fully recovered from this pandemic. Because of that, we are asking for your help and support again now. If you value your community newspaper, like you have shown us you do, we ask that you please call our U.S. representatives and senators to ask them to support legislation called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

This act has bipartisan support, which is significant during a time when the two parties rarely agree.

HR 7640 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 percent of subscription costs in the first year and 50 percent 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.

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

You may not love us on a daily basis, but you have shown you value our role in this community and the journalism we provide about our community. Please contact elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate and ask them to support this important legislation that would support your local news media.

Kevin Warren is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach him at kevin.warren@natchezdemocrat.com.