On this 110th episode of E&P Reports, Publisher and Host Mike Blinder sat down with the National Newspapers Association’s (NNA) chair, Brett Wesner, and E&P contributing editor Gretchen Peck to talk about the urgency for advocacy for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA). On Friday afternoon, November 5th, word had come that at least part of the LJSA — payroll tax credits for newsrooms — remained in the Build Back Better Reconciliation bill being bandied about in Congress. It’s legislation that the NAA, America’s Newspapers, Report for America and other industry associations have tenaciously lobbied for in Washington, DC, and perhaps to everyone’s surprise, got traction and even a little bipartisanship for it.
Community newspapers serve an obvious role that most people inherently understand. Their local newspaper — whether they read it in print or online — is the very best source of local information about what’s happening in the community around them and why it should matter to them. A local newspaper fulfills other roles that may be less overt but are nonetheless integral to the health and prosperity of the community.
“If we don’t exist, no one’s there, because you’re not going to get major metros covering small towns anymore,” Brett Wesner warned. Wesner is both the chair of the NNA and the CEO of Wesner Publications, a community newspaper publisher based in Cordell, Oklahoma.
“When you don’t have a newspaper, the bond rates increase,” Wesner continued. “If there is nobody guarding the chicken house, the fox has free rein. We do play an important role in the business of communities and also in terms of creating community. I mean, in these small towns, if you don’t have a binding element of some kind, you really lose that sense that we’re all in this together.”
The LJSA’s future remained uncertain as E&P Reports wrapped on Friday afternoon. Nothing’s a done deal until it reaches the President’s signing desk. While the associations and their lobbyists continue to implore Congress to adopt the LJSA, local newspapers around the country might use the coming week to rally their newsrooms and their readers, reminding them, we’re all in this together.
“This is a rallying cry.” E&P Story published on Friday November 5th, 2021 on Pamplin Media’s published a mostly blank front page with a simple line of copy: "What if there were no local reporters
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