Comments from Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), co-author of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act

Rep. Dan Newhouse spoke with The Paper Trail Podcast in July about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bill he co-authored and introduced in both the 116th and 117th Congress. His comments illustrate the bipartisan support for the House bill and the benefits the bill would offer to rural communities

This has been relatively easy [to get] bipartisan support. It’s the second Congress it’s been introduced. We had good bipartisan support in the 116th congress. I’m anticipating we’ll get good bipartisan support — already have — in this Congress as well.

A lot of us like myself represent rural areas in the country and that’s where we’re seeing the biggest problem here is that we’re trying to address the viability of local sources of news. So representatives and members of Congress like me and Ms Kirkpatrick who represent lots of rural communities see this as a huge issue.  Local journalism, no matter what form it’s in, truly does contribute to the fabric of a community — keeps people informed about what’s going on, and how not [just] local issues but national and international issues relate to them right there, whether you’re in Tulare County or Yakima county. That’s really a key thing.

Another aspect of this is … you’re not going to find too many large market sources of news reporting on your local city council or the high school basketball scores. Things like that might sound silly to a lot of people but truly are important to small communities. What’s happening in your communities, keeping people informed and in touch on so many different levels, is a very important part of an informed public. Certainly we want to know what’s going on in the world and the country but we’ve got to know what’s going on in our communities as well. Keeps us tied together and I think it makes for stronger communities. This is an effort to preserve that really important aspect of our small communities.

If we continue to have strong local media outlets, that might help to ameliorate that polarization in the country. … Instead of just focusing on those hot button national and international issues, we spend equal amounts of time focusing on what’s happening in our own backyard. I think that’s really key.

The importance of preserving these local sources of information is important enough to be able to look for creative ways to provide an opportunity or some time to figure it out so we do lose them. Because once they’re gone, they’re not coming back.

This is an effort to give them a bridge to the future. It’s a temporary thing. We’re talking about offering some tax credits. We’re not sending out checks. It’s not a bailout. It’s providing a mechanism to make the business climate just a little bit more favorable to allow them to have that extra amount of time to adapt.

If every member of the community was going to show up at the council meeting maybe it wouldn’t be so important to have a representative of the press but that typically doesn’t happen. People are busy. They’re working. They’ve got things they’ve got to do. They can’t always be present when some of these important things are happening. A member of the press is a vital attendant at these events. Keeps people informed about what’s going on right in their own communities.  Lots of old axioms we can use — sunlight is the best disinfectant. Why it’s good to keep those who are elected accountable. Because people know what they’re up to. They know the discussion that they are having. And they can weigh in as well and they can provide feedback — importantly informed feedback — that’s useful to their elected officials on how individuals think they should be addressing particular issues

We’re not always on the same page. I dont always like to read what reporters write about me or say about me. But I think having that kind of transparency is just part of our system — it’s really an important part of keeping our communities vibrant and strong.

We can just let local media live or die with the marketplace and that’s the way it is in our capitalist society or we could help them make this transition. Because of the limitations that rural areas have had, and the challenges they’ve had, it seems to make sense to help preserve a very important part of the fabric of our communities. Give them some time to come up with a new business model, be responsive, be creative and ultimately we hope to be successful.

This is an issue that seems to resonate with people all over the country. Those you serve, recognize the importance of having a good local media industry.  I’ve been delighted and heartened.

This is a credible effort to accomplish something that I’ve come to find out is a really important thing

People love to comment on what they read and see, and in a local market you have a lot more influence on that. Instead of being a small voice in an ocean of voices in social media, your readership, peoples opinions carry a lot of weight. … Gives people a larger voice, an informed voice, a better voice in their community.

Listen to the full podcast here.