Five ways Congress and the private sector can help preserve local journalism

Learn more about William McKenzie.
William McKenzie
Senior Editorial Advisor
George W. Bush Institute
Learn more about Chris Walsh.
Chris Walsh
Director, Global Policy
George W. Bush Institute

Bush Institute experts Bill McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor, and Chris Walsh, Director of Freedom and Democracy recently released new policy recommendations on combatting disinformation, supporting freedom of the press, and preserving local journalism. We zoom in and highlight five ways in which policy makers and the private sector can help aid the local news crisis below.

A jarring one-fifth of Americans live in a community that lacks a local news source or is at risk of losing one, and an average of more than two newspapers close their doors every week in towns across the United States. These “news deserts” are creating barriers to the free flow of information critical to democratic stability as well as a vacuum for disinformation. The everchanging news landscape and business model has resulted in a major lack of financial support and trained journalists to deliver local news.  

Bush Institute experts Bill McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor, and Chris Walsh, Director of Freedom and Democracy delve into five ideas on how our Nation can restore local journalism in a new set of policy recommendations on combatting disinformation and promoting the reliable flow of information.  

  1. Tax deductions for newspapers: Congress should consider granting individuals tax deductions for their newspaper subscriptions, similarly to what is permitted for public broadcasting contributions.  
  2. Granting news organizations a temporary antitrust exemption: Policy makers should consider affording news organizations a temporary antitrust exemption, so the industry can negotiate payment from social media platforms for the posting of traditional media’s original reporting. 
  3. Starting and growing local nonprofit news outlets:  It’s important that private investors and business leaders who understand the importance of a reliable flow of information step up with the capital in support of these nonprofit news organizations. The increase of nonprofit news is aiding the local news crisis. 
  4. Simpler laws in support of nonprofit newspaper transitions: Congress should explore new tax laws that would make it easier for interested newspapers to become nonprofit organizations. This not-for-profit model prioritizes transparency, accountability, and impact. 
  5. Privately funded reporting: Private philanthropy groups and individuals should finance independent coverage by traditional news organizations on the most relevant issues facing our society and driving democratic engagement and participation. This solution can help fill the information gap so many communities are experiencing.  

Local news is crucial to informing citizens on how their tax dollars are being spent, holding elected officials accountable, considering how to vote in the next election, and the list goes on. Simply put, our democracy suffers when communities go without reliable local journalism. Congress and private sector leaders must recognize the danger in the decrease in information accessibility for much of our Nation and do their part to restore this function of a healthy democracy.