Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is circulating a draft letter to be sent to the White House requesting additional relief targeted specifically at local newsrooms, according to a draft of the letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Local news was already facing dire strains in the U.S., but the coronavirus and a pending recession have pushed the industry into near collapse at a time when people need access to news and information more than ever.

  • The $2 trillion rescue package passed by Congress last month covers small businesses, including some news companies, but advocates argue it's not enough to cover the long-lasting damages coronavirus will have on local news.
  • Newsrooms are officially considered "essential services" by the federal government and many state governments, but some argue they won't be able to survive without additional financial support.
  • Dozens of local and national newsrooms have begun instituting pay cuts, layoffs or have ceased publication altogether in response to the hit the advertising market has taken since the pandemic surged.

Driving the news: Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas) are seeking support for a letter to President Trump that calls for federal advertising dollars to be prioritized to local outlets.

The letter asks Trump to:

  • Direct Cabinet secretaries to speed up planned advertising campaigns to local media outlets.
  • Direct federal agency advertising dollars for new and existing programs to local media.
  • Incentivize a portion of the coronavirus stimulus funds that are going to businesses be used for advertising on local media.

What they're saying: “We believe that executive branch agencies have a powerful opportunity to support local media and promote public awareness by directing that federal spending on advertising be prioritized for local media outlets," per the letter.

  • “Specifically, we encourage federal agencies to put into action today already funded campaigns to achieve certain public objectives as well as potential promotions of the economic stimulus programs provided for by the CARES Act and other recent legislation.”

The House's efforts follow calls from nearly two dozen senators last week, led by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, to provide relief for local newsrooms in any future COVID-19 relief package.

  • All of the letter's 19 Senate signatories were either Democrats and Independents.

Between the lines: None of these efforts fully address the needs and asks of the news industry.

  • On Thursday, some of the biggest media trade groups, representing thousands of publishers and broadcasters, asked Congress to provide extensive relief to local news outlets in its next stimulus bill.
  • Part of their requests included ensuring that local media can seek relief under the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal backstop to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. This request has not been mentioned in any of the efforts from Congress.
  • Some TV and radio station groups, like Gray Television, have struggled to take advantage of the existing funding, because their size is being calculated on their larger holding group, not the sizes of struggling newsrooms at the local level.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Commission on Presidential Debates wants changes

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates, after Tuesday night's head-to-head between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was practically incoherent for most of the night.

What they are saying: "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement.

Trump says he doesn't know who Proud Boys are after telling them to "stand by"

President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't know who the "Proud Boys" are, after saying at the presidential debate last night that the far-right group should "stand back and stand by" in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.

Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded: "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!