As local newspapers shut down, proposed bill could help struggling papers

MEDFORD, Ore. – A newspaper that reached over 200,000 people, suddenly gone.

“It’s a huge loss for the community,” former Mail Tribune editor Bob Hunter said.

Hunter, who worked at the Mail Tribune for 33 years, said the mail tribune closing last week wasn’t a surprise.

“We could see it coming to some degree, it seemed like it was off in the distance,” he said.

According to the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon, reducing local media continues to be a trend in Oregon, despite public trust.

“We found that there have been closures here in Oregon of news outlets over a long period of time,” research director at the Agora Journalism Center Regina Lawrence said. “Here in Oregon it was a good solid two thirds of Oregonians that we served who said that they did trust their local news.”

Researchers at UO say in populated areas like Portland and Bend, there is a high concentration of outlets for local news.

However, small cities and counties are seeing less and less newsrooms.

Now, one Oregon state representative is hoping a new bill will help incentivize people to subscribe to their local news.

“You could basically take a tax credit and at the end of the year if you spent let’s say ten bucks a month on you know a local newspaper subscription, you could subtract 120 dollars a year from the taxes you owe that year,” Tigard Democratic state representative Ben Bowman said.

Bowman is one of the co-sponsors of the ‘Local Journalism Sustainability Act,’ which is set to be introduced this year.

He said Oregon has lost a quarter of its newspapers since 2005, making it an important issue for everyone.

“What people need to understand is that the Medford Mail Tribune is not an outlier,” Bowman said. “It is part of a much larger trend and if we don’t take action to reverse the trend, we’re going to have very few local news outlets left if you care about local government accountability, if you care about transparency, if you care about having an informed electorate, you have to care about the health of local news.”

The bill has yet to be read in the legislature.

A Josephine County newspaper is hoping to fit into the area the Mail Tribune left behind.

Last week, the Grants Pass Daily Courier announced it’s looking to expand into Jackson County by increasing investments.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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