inewsource reporter Brad Racino interviews Michelle Knuttila, founder and board member of HiCaliber Horse Rescue in Valley Center, on March 2, 2018. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)

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These are unprecedented times and they call for unprecedented actions. So here’s a first for inewsource:

We are appealing to Congress, specifically to our congressional representatives, to help local news organizations like inewsource in the next COVID-19 relief package by approving provisions of the bipartisan Local Journalism Sustainability Act. It’s a call to respond to the very real struggles of credible news organizations.

Did you know…

The number of reporters in this country has declined 60 percent since 2000. Some 1,800 communities have no local news source at all. Since COVID-19, scores of publications have shut down. Some 36,000 journalists have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut since the pandemic began.

At inewsource, we never get involved in politics or push for legislation because we pride ourselves on being transparent, independent, down-the-middle trustworthy. But we have a responsibility to weigh into this discussion. The very existence of independent, fact-based journalism is at stake.

This is not just for us. It’s for local newsrooms here, like the Union-Tribune and the Voice of San Diego, and beyond. Democracy thrives with a multitude of successful news outlets.

As an investigative, accountability news organization, we shine a light on what you need to know to be safe and informed in these times.

In just the past several months, we’ve told you about oversight failures in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We’ve fact-checked what county public officials are advising during the pandemic. We’ve forewarned what fire season may be like for our region with firefighting forces challenged by the pandemic. We’ve told the stories of those who have died from COVID-19 and circumstances that could have been different.

For 10 years, we’ve held the powerful to account, changing laws and lives.

We’re not asking for a handout. We are asking the government to empower its citizens with tax breaks to support local journalism. Today, more than ever, credible journalism is not a luxury. It’s as essential to democracy as food and water are to human survival.

Here’s what the bill includes:

  • A $250 tax credit for Americans to buy subscriptions to a local newspaper or give a donation or take a membership in a local nonprofit news organization.
  • A $5,000 tax credit for small businesses to advertise with local news media. For a nonprofit news organization like ours, it would mean sponsorship opportunities.
  • A payroll tax credit to encourage news organizations to retain or hire reporters. This kind of tax credit benefits nonprofits as well as for-profits and has been used in 2009, under the CARES act and in other similar economic shifts.

In urging support of this legislation, the leadership of inewsource is joining a coalition of for-profit and nonprofit news organizations, journalism funders, reporters and advocacy groups — collectively representing 5,000+ community-based news organizations.

Many of our supporters already can benefit from tax deductions by supporting inewsource as a nonprofit. I can assure you that indirect government support will never compromise our independence or silence our voice. It certainly hasn’t for the last 10 years nor will it for the next 10.

Saving local news can’t wait. We ask you to join us in calling on Congress to support the inclusion of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (H.R. 7640) in the next COVID-19 funding relief bill or other funding measures this year.

Make your voice heard on this issue. Visit RebuildLocalNews.org to take action today.

And to those of you who already support inewsource with donations large and small, thank you! We exist to serve our communities but couldn’t do it without you.

Sincerely, Lorie Hearn
CEO, Founder, Editor inewsource

Lorie Hearn is the chief executive officer and editor of inewsource. She is a lifelong news-aholic who started her reporting career writing her Girl Scout newsletter at age 12. High school and college were filled with school newspaper work, and after graduation, she worked as a reporter for newspapers...