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There's an effort in Richmond to boost local journalism, but its price tag may be a sticking point

Members of the General Assembly are considering a bill that would help an industry that's increasingly endangered — local newspapers.

Virginia has seven news deserts, places where there's no local newspaper to cover the Board of Supervisors or the School Board or the commonwealth's attorney. Penny Muse Abernathy is visiting professor at Northwestern University.

"Research has shown that when you lose a newspaper, voter participation in local elections goes down, corruption in both government and in small businesses goes up," Abernathy explains. "And then, of course, misinformation and disinformation flourishes in a vacuum."

That's why Delegate Alfonso Lopez of Arlington has a bill that would create tax credits for news organizations that hire local journalists. His bill would also give tax credits to small businesses that place ads in local newspapers.

"People on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the consolidation of media and the fact that we're losing journalistic resources and that you're not getting some hyper-local or local or regional press the way we had in the past," Lopez says. "And that is a problem."

Now, if lawmakers decide to approve the local journalism sustainability credits, they would also have to figure out a way to pay for the price tag, which could be as much as $5 million a year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.