What’s at Stake for Ethnic Media?

Ethnic Media

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

Devastating layoffs at the LA Times and many other news outlets, along with growing news deserts, are fueling growing uncertainty about the future of local journalism — even about the future of news itself.

The amount of advertising to local newspapers declined 82% – a $40 billion drop – since 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. EMS briefing on Feb 2 explored current initiatives to rescue local journalism through various forms of taxpayer support and other public policies. Several ethnic news media publishers shared their views and inquired about how and whether these plans advance equity for the ethnic media sector which is indispensable to the ecosystem for reaching traditionally underserved audiences but is often excluded from discussions about local journalism.

Steven Waldman, Founder and President of Rebuild Local News and Co-Founder and former President of Report for America introduced the organization’s measures to help local journalism revitalize.

These include the federal “Community Journalism and Small Business Support” bill (H.R. 4756), which helps local journalism through tax breaks. Specifically, the bill stipulates that small businesses can obtain tax rebates for advertising in local news; the salary of reporters at local news organizations can also be tax deducted, with each reporter being able to deduct up to $25,000 in the first year, and the maximum deductible in each of the following four years to be $15,000. The bill was proposed in 2023 and is currently under review.

Ryan Adam, Vice President of Government and Public Relations for the Toronto Star introduced that the Toronto Star was founded in 1892. The newspaper’s revenue has always been mainly divided into two parts, 80% from advertising and 20% from subscription fees. But in recent years, like most news organizations, it has lost almost all of its advertising revenue.

In 2022, the Canadian government introduced the “Online News Act”, which stipulates that platforms like Google and Meta need to pay certain dividends to news media. Ryan Adam said that in fact, long before the government introduced the bill, the Toronto Star had signed dividend agreements with these platforms to ensure its own interests. Secondly, Canada has other measures to protect news organizations, including that subscribers can get a 15% tax rebate from the subscription fee, and news organizations can also get a 15% tax rebate from each reporter’s salary. These initiatives have effectively saved local journalism.

Brittney Barsotti, General Counsel, California Newspaper Publishers Association spoke about the California Journalism Protection Act” (AB886), which stipulates the use of the organization’s online platform must pay a certain dividend to the news organization, which is settled every quarter. The bill is currently in committee.