Rebuild Local News supports Wisconsin bill to establish local news advertising credit

Steve Waldman, Rebuild Local News Coalition chair, testified in Madison, Wisconsin in support of Assembly Bill 762 , which would create a tax credit for local small businesses to advertise in local news outlets. The legislation is similar to the advertising credit originally proposed in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

Republican Assemblyman Todd Novak of Dodgeville introduced the bill Dec. 9. The bill has since earned 16 cosponsors — 14 Republicans and two Democrats — in addition to Novak. A version of the bill was also introduced in the Wisconsin state Senate Jan. 6 and has three cosponsors — two Republicans and one Democrat. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee members heard testimony from stakeholders, including Waldman, Jan. 19.

In his testimony, Waldman said the “smart bill would solve two problems at once – helping small businesses get back on their feet and helping save local news from destruction.” He also spoke about the potential for this bill to become a nonpartisan model for other states to adopt as they consider how to support not only local newsrooms, but local economies.

“[It is] an honor to give support to the newspapers and TV stations in Wisconsin pushing this shrewd bill,” Waldman said on Twitter after the hearing.

Nine of the Rebuild Local News Coalition’s 17 members represent or support a total of 254 newsrooms in Wisconsin. You can read Rebuild Local News’ full testimony below.

January 19, 2022

Statement of Steven Waldman, chair of the Rebuild Local News Coalition, and President and co-founder of Report for America:

“The Rebuild Local News is a coalition of 17 national organizations committed to strengthening local news.  The coalition’s groups represent more than 3,000 newsrooms, and includes publishers, labor unions, rural and urban, mainstream and ethnic, publications small, medium and large – including 254 in Wisconsin.

The Rebuild Local News Coalition strongly supports Assembly Bill 762.  This smart bill would solve two problems at once – helping small businesses get back on their feet and helping save local news from destruction.

I’d like to provide some national context about the local news part of that equation. While national cable news and newspapers are thriving, local news is collapsing. The internet has devastated the business models of local newspapers. Since 2000, there has been an 81% drop in newspaper advertising revenue. Some 1,800 communities have no newspapers and thousands more have “ghost newspapers,” which barely cover local issues.

We know that the publications in Wisconsin are doing their best.  But they are doing it with far fewer reporters. Nationally, the drop in ad revenue has led to a 54% drop in the number of reporters since 2000.  The contraction has been particularly severe in rural areas.

This makes it harder for communities to address the problems most important to them.  Studies have shown that towns with less local news have lower bond ratings and even higher taxes (because municipal governments tend to get sloppier when no one is watching). Such communities have less civic engagement and lower voter turnouts.  It’s also harder to improve schools if parents don’t know what’s going on.  Finally, studies have shown that less local news leads to more polarization, as local news is replaced by national cable news, social media and other sources.

We are gratified to see that so many local business, professional and civic groups support this legislation.  This makes sense – and not just because the businesses can sure use the financial help afforded by this marketing credit. It also makes sense because communities without good local news – without accurate information – tend to stagnate.

We particularly appreciate that this is a way of helping local news without having the government pick and choose favorite outlets.  Instead, the tax credit goes to Wisconsin small businesses, who in turn decide which local news source best fits their marketing needs and, we would hope, has built up trust from the community through years of fair journalism.

Part of why I’m here today is that I think this could not only be great for Wisconsin – it can be a model for the rest of the country.  We think you have honed in on a superb, bipartisan (or really nonpartisan) approach, which we think can lead the way for other communities or even the U.S. Congress.  There may be a few tweaks that could strengthen the bill but the general approach is shrewd, effective and First Amendment friendly.

It’s an American as apple pie to complain about elected officials – and now it’s as American as apple pie to complain about the media.  I certainly do it all the time, and I work in the media. I’m guessing you have some critiques of the media too.

But the collapse of local news poses a really severe threat to the health of communities.  This bill provides a great solution to this crisis.”

The Rebuild Local News Coalition includes:

The National Newspaper Association, Institute for Nonprofit News, National Newspaper Publishers Association, America’s Newspapers, The News Guild, Local Independent Online News, National Association of Hispanic Publications, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Report for America / The GroundTruth Project, American Journalism Project, Lenfest Institute, Solutions Journalism Network, Local News Consortium, Chalkbeat, PEN America, Public Knowledge

Wisconsin newsrooms included in those groups:

Door County Knock
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
The Badger Project
Tone Madison
Wausau Pilot and Review
Wisconsin Watch
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Community News
Oshkosh Examiner
Point/Plover Metro Wire
Racine County Eye
The Newcomer
West of the I
The Madison Times Weekly
Milwaukee Community Journal
Milwaukee Courier
Milwaukee Times Weekly
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Reporting
Wausau Daily Herald
Spectrum News Milwaukee
Green Bay Post Gazette
Abbotsford Record-Review
Amery Free Press
Antigo Daily Journal
Ashland Daily Press
Bayfield County Journal
Waukesha Freeman
Beloit Daily News
The Boscobel Dial
Ozaukee County News Graphic
Tri-County Press
Republican Journal
Vilas County News Review
Country Today
Leader Telegram
Edgerton Reporter
Fennimore Times
Jefferson County Union
Crawford County Independent
Burnett County Sentinel
Sawyer County Record
Hillsboro Sentry Enterprise
Janesville Gazette
Cambridge News
Lake Mills Leader
Grant County Herald Independent
Poynette Press
Medford Star News
Milton Courier
Daily Reporter
Monroe Times
Muscoda Progressive
Osceola Sun
Price County Review
The Platteville Journal
Richland Observer
River Falls Journal
Spooner Advocate
Cottage Grove Herald-Independent
McFarland Thistle
Sun Prairie Star
Superior Telegram
Dodge County Independent News
Watertown Daily Times
DeForest Times-Tribune
Lodi Enterprise
Waunakee Tribune
Waushara Argus
West Bend Daily News
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune | The Daily Tribune
The Post-Crescent
The Sheboygan Press
FDL Reporter | The Reporter
The Northwestern
Stevens Point Journal
Herald Times Reporter
Marshfield News Herald
Adams Friendship Times Reporter
Hometown Herald
Buffalo County Journal
Pecatonica Valley Leader
The Daily Press
The Press
Augusta Area Times
The Baldwin Bulletin
County Ledger Press
Baraboo News Republic
Barron News-Shield
Daily Citizen
Berlin Journal
Banner Journal
Jackson County Chronicle
The Blair Press
Bloomer Advance
The Boscobel Dial
The Independent Register
Brookfield-Elm Grove Now
Burlington Standard Press
The Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent
Campbellsport News
Cashton Record
The Chetek Alert
The Chippewa Herald
The Clinton Topper
Clintonville Tribune Gazette
Cochrane-Fountain City Recorder
The Colfax Messenger
Columbus Journal
Courier Sentinel
The Herald-Independent and The McFarland Thistle
The Forest Republican
Cumberland Advocate
The Denmark News
The Dodgeville Chronicle
The Courier-Wedge
Vilas County News-Review
The Country Today
The Record-Review
The Edgerton Reporter
Elkhorn Independent
Pierce County Herald
The Messenger of Juneau County
The Evansville Review
Fitchburg Star
The Florence Mining News
Daily Jefferson County Union
Inter-County Leader
Crawford County Independent & The Kickapoo Scout
Germantown-Menomonee Falls Now
Tribune Press Reporter
The Glidden Enterprise
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Green Lake Reporter
Greenfield-West Allis Now
Central St. Croix News
Lake Country Reporter
Hillsboro Sentry-Enterprise
Hudson Star-Observer
Iron County Miner
The Gazette
Kenosha News
Kewaskum Statesman
Tri-County News
La Crosse Tribune
La Farge Episcope
Ladysmith News
Lake Geneva Regional News
Lake Mills Leader
Tribune Record Gleaner
The Capital Times
Wisconsin State Journal
The Marion Advertiser
Markesan Regional Reporter
Marshfield News-Herald
Juneau County Star-Times
Dodge County Pionier
The Star News
The Mellen Weekly-Record
The Dunn County News
Merrill Courier
Middleton Times-Tribune
The Daily Reporter
The Democrat Tribune
The Lakeland Times
Mondovi Herald News
The Monroe Times
The Marquette County Tribune
The Mosinee Times
Mount Horeb Mail
Mukwonago Chief
The Progressive
Muskego-New Berlin Now
The Clark County Press
Post Messenger Recorder
New London Press Star
New Richmond News
North Shore Now
Franklin-Greendale-Hales Corners-Oak Creek Now
Oconomowoc Enterprise
Oconomowoc Focus
Oconto County Reporter
Omro Herald
County Line
The Oregon Observer
The Sun
Oshkosh Northwestern
Peshtigo Times
The Review
Ozaukee Press
Portage Daily Register
Courier Press
Prescott Journal
Princeton Times-Republic
The Journal Times
The Sounder
Reedsburg Independent
The Northwoods River News
Reedsburg Times Press
Ripon Commonwealth Press
River Falls Journal
Sauk Prairie Star
Sauk Prairie Eagle
Shawano Leader
Sheboygan Falls News
Washburn County Register
South Shore Now
Monroe County Herald
Home News
The Stanley Republican
Portage County Gazette
Wisconsin State Farmer
The Stoughton Courier Hub
Door County Advocate
The Star
The Thorp Courier
The Three Lakes News
The Tomah Journal and Monitor Herald
Tomahawk Leader
The Times
The Valders Journal
The Verona Press
Vernon County Broadcaster
The County Journal
The Courier
The Freeman
Waukesha Now
The Waunakee Tribune
Waupaca County Post
Wauwatosa Now
Daily News
The Coulee News
Westby Times
Trempealeau County Times
The Winneconne News
Sawyer County Gazette
Wisconsin Dells Events
Daily Tribune
O-W Enterprise
The Wittenberg Enterprise and Birnamwood News
The Woodville Leader