Senate committee tells Health and Human Services to do more with newspapers on rural public health

Jul 28, 2023

The Senate Appropriations Committee is directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that local media including non-daily newspapers are part of their federal advertising campaigns. The Committee is focused on improving rural public health.

In an appropriations report for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins October 1, 2023, the Committee directs the HHS Secretary to prioritize local news media in its advertising programs. Led by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, two advocates for improving rural health, the report said:

“The Committee recognizes the critical role local media plays in delivering public health messages to small or rural communities. Therefore, the Committee directs the Secretary to ensure that local media in small or rural markets are part of the Federal public health advertising campaigns. To further this goal, the Committee directs the Secretary, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and their media buyer contractors, to prioritize local news media in rural areas for HHS Federal advertising campaigns to reach citizens in these communities with key health messages. Local media should include newspapers, including non-daily newspapers, television, and radio.”

The Committee requires a report on HHS’s efforts within 90 days of enactment on the advertising work and a breakdown of the money allocated to local media in rural areas for public affairs campaigns from the prior fiscal year, 2023.

NNA Chair John Galer, publisher of The Journal-News in Hillsboro, Illinois, said NNA was gratified by the strong language in the report. Urging the federal government to do a better job of investing in local newsrooms through advertising programs has been a top priority of NNA this year. NNA represents nearly 2,000 community newspapers across America, including many in small towns and underserved niche neighborhoods.

“This is just a first step in our ongoing campaign to persuade the federal government that it can do a better job of getting messages out and supporting endangered local newsrooms at the same time,” Galer said.

Galer further said that NNA is not in the advertising sales business, but it views the critical mission of driving revenue to local newspapers as its most important job in ensuring that America’s communities are served by solid local journalism.