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EDITORIAL: Help to keep local journalism going

The last two years have been trying for a lot of people as they try to make it through the upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

And it has been an especially so for businesses, as they adapt to unprecedented challenges across all industries.

From shutdowns that kept customers out of shops to hospitals trying to meet staff and equipment needs to event venues having to deal with capacity and health safeguards, the effects were felt by all and are still rippling across our economy to this day.

One area that has been strongly affected is local journalism. With economic impacts being felt in the ad revenue that sustains it, television, radio and print outlets have had to work to navigate the situation at a time when reliable information is more needed than ever.

Print journalism faces this compounded by the last few decades of changes, which have hit the industry hard, with many cities and towns losing their newspapers.

Here at The Ironton Tribune, we have worked to continue to bring you a product that is accurate, reliable and offers coverage of Lawrence County that can not be found elsewhere.

Earlier this year, we received the General Excellence award from the Ohio APME for our work in 2020, winning statewide against newspapers of our size. Altogether, the Tribune won 15 awards for last year’s work, something we are proud of and feel is indicative of our commitment to this community, something that has been a tradition since our founding 93 years ago this month (and far longer, if you count the 70 years prior to that of the two predecessor papers that formed The Tribune).

While information flows abundantly in this era, a hometown newspaper remains a vital part of the community, Broadcast covers a larger geographic area and can not devote itself to individual towns, while social media is notoriously unreliable.

Too often, “news deserts” have formed, where many parts of the country have no local coverage.

We value all of our readers for their support and their subscriptions help to ensure that Lawrence County has the local coverage it needs.

Whether print or digital, these subscriptions are a guaranteed way to support local journalism. We ask that you continue to subscribe and, hopefully, convince family and friends to do so as well.

And, fortunately, there has been some relief for our industry in public resources. Congress passed COVID-19 relief, which included the Paycheck Protection Program, which helped us to retain employees who work tirelessly to bring you the news. The Tribune received $104,903 from this and we put it to good use.

While at the state level, Gov. Mike DeWine issued $5 billion in a rebate to Bureau of Workers’ Compensation policyholders, which greatly helped to ease the economic impacts of the pandemic.

At the federal level, some lawmakers know all too well the dangers of newspapers vanishing across the county and are working to preserve this key industry.

Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced by U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, and has attracted the support of 78 members of Congress from both parties.

This legislation would provide tax credits to newspapers for:

• up to $250 per year per individual to cover 80 percent of subscription fees to local newspapers for the first tax year and 50 percent for following tax years.

• up to $12,500 per quarter to reduce employment taxes for a local newspaper to hire and pay journalists.

• up to $5,000 per year for a small business to cover 80 percent of advertising with local media (whether at local newspapers or broadcast stations) the first year after the act would take effect and up to $2,500 per year for another four years to cover 50 percent of such advertising.

We urge everyone to contact their representatives to express their support for this legislation, which would go a long way to easing the burden journalism faces.

Local coverage is not something that should be a privilege, but should be in place in all communities. We should never take for granted what local journalism has to offer and, with your help and support, it is our hope that Lawrence County and other parts of the country never have to be welcomed to the desert.