Protecting old-growth forests, a pledge President Joe Biden made during his Seattle visit, should be a priority.

But if Biden wants to permanently make America more resilient, stronger and united, he needs to also save its endangered local, free press system.

Congress is sitting on two bipartisan bills that will sustain and grow this essential infrastructure of democracy. The president should push to get them passed by summer, before attention turns to midterms and collaboration gets more difficult.

Specifically, the White House should work to include tax credits to save newsroom jobs in the next budget reconciliation package.

This is a point of unity, supported by Senate leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act proposing the credits is co-sponsored by House Republicans and all but one member of Washington state’s delegation.

Biden should also help move Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bill that would enable news outlets, especially small ones, to collectively negotiate fair compensation from Google and Facebook. It should advance alongside other bipartisan antitrust reforms, such as the White House-backed bill prohibiting self-preferencing by tech giants.


These are fine topics to consider in the Northwest. Top elected officials like Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden are leading supporters of efforts to save the local press.

So too are the region’s largest companies. Microsoft is working nationally to support rural newspapers, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reinvigorated The Washington Post as a model publisher.

Biden clearly believes in the importance of a free press and deserves praise for actions taken so far.

“It’s the bedrock of democracy,” he said in the opening speech of his global Democracy Summit in December. “It’s how the public stay informed and how governments are held accountable. And around the world, press freedom is under threat.”

This is backed by actions such as Biden directing the Department of Justice to halt subpoenas of reporters’ phone and email records. The administration resumed department press briefings and took other steps that earned mostly kudos from the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a January assessment.

“The first year of the Biden administration’s relationship with the U.S. press has been an almost complete reversal of the Trump administration’s unprecedentedly pervasive and damaging hostility, which seriously damaged the news media’s credibility and often spread misinformation around the world,” the CPJ wrote.


At the Democracy Summit, Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced new funding to support independent news organizations struggling to survive, and to support reporters and outlets targeted with litigation.

“The number of ‘news deserts’ around the world is growing, depriving citizens of the accurate, trustworthy information they need to participate fully in civic and political life,” Blinken said.

Blinken also announced the launch of a “media viability accelerator” to make independent press outlets abroad more sustainable. The U.S. is also providing the most funding to a new global initiative supporting at-risk media outlets.

That’s in addition to $236 million that Biden requested in the 2022 budget to support independent media, increasing by more than 40% the commitment made in 2020, Blinken noted.

All of this support and the sentiment are tremendous.

But so far the “sustain and preserve” efforts are all focused on media overseas, as part of the U.S. effort to strengthen democracy worldwide.

Meanwhile, the original news desert is spreading across the U.S., especially small and rural communities that now have little to no local news coverage.


Over the last 15 years nearly 60% of newspaper newsroom jobs were lost and more than a fourth of local newspapers failed. Many remaining papers are hollow ghosts with scant local reporting.

The effects of this local journalism crisis are clear. Civic engagement is declining and dialogue devolving into bitter feuds over divisive national topics. They are fought with sound bites on social media and cable TV, blown out of proportion by extremists and partisans, and distort state and local politics.

Instead of reading stories about what’s happening locally, how government is performing, where tax dollars are being invested and whether jobs are being created — as they are in great numbers under the Biden administration — people hear shouting about school policies in Florida.

Simple and relatively low cost cures to this disease killing democracy are at hand. They would help Biden pursue a legacy as a president who rebuilt, revived and reunited America.

They’re just waiting for a nudge to get through Congress, before midterms and a potential resurgence of authoritarian-leaning politicians who would be happy to snuff what’s left of the free press holding them accountable and empowering voters to think for themselves.

P.S. You can save both ancient forests and newspapers, which are printed on recycled paper and pulp from younger, low-grade, fast-growing trees farmed for that purpose.