The Build Back Better Act Could Save Local Journalism
A tiny provision of the act recently passed by the House gives local newsrooms a major tax break
The official summary of the Build Back Better Act, which just passed the House of Representatives, is startling in its understatement. It begins: “This bill provides funding, establishes programs, and otherwise modifies provisions relating to a broad array of areas, including education, labor, child care, health care, taxes, immigration, and the environment.” A broad array indeed: the law increases our investments in safe drinking water, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, public health infrastructure, housing and rental assistance, cybersecurity, tribal infrastructure, drought relief, wildfire prevention, small business aid, public transit, and veterans services, along with providing up to six semesters of free community college, free universal pre-K, expanded medical benefits for the poor, dental, hearing and vision care for seniors, reduced prices on pharmaceuticals, up to 12 weeks paid family leave and a path to permanent resident status for Dreamers.
Over time, this legislation, assuming it passes the Senate, will transform many lives and communities. But most Americans have no idea what’s in the Build Back Better Act, other than its overall price of about $2 trillion over ten years. That’s less than one third what we’re going to spend on the military, but most Americans probably don’t know that either. Big Tech, which was supposed to give us an “information superhighway,” has instead helped make Americans less informed and more distrustful of authoritative news sources. If you are worried that we’re living in a 21st century version of Mike Judge’s 2006 film Idiocracy, join the club.
Which is why I’m most excited about one tiny provision of the Build Back Better Act that could go a long way toward improving what we actually do know about what government is doing. It’s a piece of legislation called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act that was rolled into the larger law thanks to the efforts of Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Ron Wyden and Republican Representative Dan Newhouse. It provides a hefty payroll tax credit to newsrooms that employ full-time local journalists, of up to $85,000 over five years per…