It’s a tiny part of the Build Back Better bill, but a telling one: federal support for the press in the form of a $1.7 billion subsidy for “local journalism.”
It’s a payroll tax credit of $25,000 per employee the first year and then $15,000 for the four following years for any “local newspaper publisher” that serves “the needs of a regional or local community” and has “no more than 750 employees.” The journalists in question would have to live within 50 miles of their news outlet and work more than 30 hours a week.
The claim is that this is just help to starving local outlets hit hard by the pandemic. But Republicans will call it, not without cause, a bribe for favorable coverage.
Yes, times are rough as heck for print journalism, and solid local coverage like The Post provides often doesn’t bring in the national online audience that can help pay the bills.
But these are issues the industry needs to work out for itself. Government strings inevitably follow government handouts, and the Fourth Estate must remain independent to do our job.
This idea is no way to “build journalism back better,” it’s a first step toward neutering the free press.