State-Journal subscribers answer the call during pandemic; publisher gives a push to Local Journalism Sustainability Act

By Steve Stewart, Publisher, Frankfort State-Journal

Steve Stewart

Back in March when COVID-19 began battering the economy, including small businesses like The State Journal, many of you asked how you could help your hometown newspaper weather the crisis.

Atop my list was a simple request: Subscribe, especially online, where readership had been increasing but subscriptions had not. Giving away our content online, with no subscription revenue to help compensate our journalists who keep the community informed, was simply unsustainable as we headed into a period of unprecedented disruption in advertising revenue, historically our lifeblood.

Nearly six months later, I’m pleased to report that you responded. Since March 1, we’ve added 544 digital subscribers, with the pace quickening in the last 30 days. That trend bodes well for community journalism in Frankfort during a time when many newspapers across the country are throwing in the towel, unable to find a way forward.

The combination of digital subscription growth; strategic expense reduction, especially reduced frequency of print publication; a $123,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan; and loyal employees who’ve worked tirelessly on behalf of an institution they love has helped us navigate the crisis to date.

We ask that you keep subscribing, and encourage friends and family to do the same. There’s a new way to help. Call your U.S. representative and senators and ask them to support bipartisan legislation called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which, at this writing, had 29 cosponsors on both sides of the aisle during an era when Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything.

HR 7640 is a series of three tax credits aimed at sustaining and providing a pathway to viability for the local journalism industry 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% of subscription costs in the first year and 50% of subscription costs in the subsequent four years.
  • A five-year refundable credit for local newspapers like mine 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.

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

Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is steve.stewart@state-journal.com.

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