Tax Dollars at Work

In recent years, with the journalism business increasingly untenable, there have been calls for public investment across the country, at the local and federal level.

Civic Information Consortium
In June 2018, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill establishing a nonprofit entity called the Civic Information Consortium, tasked with overseeing a public fund for local news. The idea was first conceived by Free Press, a media equity nonprofit; for two years, thousands of New Jersey residents organized and lobbied lawmakers in support of the legislation. The consortium was allocated $2 million, though it has yet to actually receive funding. In September, the governor earmarked $500,000 for it as part of the state’s 2021 budget.

Longmont Library
In May 2019, citizens of Longmont, Colorado, proposed a tax-funded, library-run local news operation. The city was conducting a feasibility study when the pandemic broke out, interrupting progress, but local officials have recommended increasing the library division’s budget next year.

Policy Matters Ohio
In July 2019, Policy Matters Ohio, a state equity nonprofit, called on legislators to boost support for public broadcasting by $5 million a year. In a report, “Breaking news: Newspaper closures hurt Ohio communities,” the organization sought state investment in the local press and proposed taxing Google and Facebook to fund an endowment for independent journalism.

House and Senate Letters
In April 2020, a group of nineteen US senators signed a letter urging their colleagues to support local journalism as part of the government’s coronavirus relief effort; more than 240 lawmakers in the House of Representatives asked agencies to direct federal spending on advertising to local outlets.

Local Journalism Sustainability Act
In July 2020, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House proposing tax credits for Americans to buy local news subscriptions, for local newspapers to compensate journalists, and for small businesses to spend on advertising with local media.

Future of Local News Commission Act
Introduced by three Democratic senators in September 2020, the bill proposes a thirteen-person commission that would examine the local-news crisis and make recommendations for federal intervention. The draft legislation suggests establishing a national endowment for local journalism and making public funds “part of a multi-faceted approach to sustaining local news.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Shinhee Kang is a freelance journalist and former CJR fellow.