Here’s something the US House and Senate agree on: The local news industry has been in crisis and under siege for decades now.
Local TV stations routinely violate the FCC regulation that forbids conflating content with advertising. Daily newspapers have been traded between investment groups who have eviscerated staffs, gutted operations and sold the land out from under them. There are more PR flacks than reporters at any local government meeting.
Meanwhile, instead of spending their marketing budgets on advertising with local media, which uses the revenue to benefit the communities it comes from by hiring reporters to cover the news, businesses big and small pay for Google ads or social-media posts. Who knows what Facebook does with the money.
We know this: The news business does not do well in the hands of people who don’t care about the business of news.
As a result, there are not enough reporters covering local news. And when a society does not have enough accurate, timely information to govern itself, we all pay the price.
For the most part, your county commission and city council have more of an effect on your day-to-day life than your Congressional reps, senators or the president.
A good step towards remedying this is the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which has made its way through two readings in each house with bipartisan support, and was, at last report, part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that is caught in the collective craw of the legislative branch.
If you’ve heard about this, thank a reporter.
The act acknowledges local media as an essential piece of infrastructure by giving all Americans a tax credit for subscribing to local newspapers, by giving local news companies payroll-tax credits for the journalists they employ and by giving businesses, governments and other entities tax credits for dollars spent advertising with local news orgs.
This would be a good thing for local news in general and, as a devoutly local news source, for Triad City Beat specifically.
But this alone cannot save local journalism. Funding is good and incentives are great. But none of this matters unless the citizenry keeps up its end of the deal by striving to stay informed.
We’ve seen what it looks like when people get their news from YouTube and social media. There’s been a better way all along.