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NY State newspapers rally in Albany to save local news

On Wednesday, the Empire State Local News Coalition, a statewide advocacy group of more than 150 local news outlets, and politicians rallied at the State Capitol in support of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

The industry-saving bill, sponsored by state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, provides tax credits to local news outlets for the employment of local news journalists. Elected officials in attendance included state Senators Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Monica Martinez and Assemblymembers Michaelle Solages, David Weprin and Joseph DeStefano. Last week, the state Senate included the bill in its one-house budget resolution, a major sign of the bill’s growing support in the Legislature.

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, speaking, above, who represents Manhattan’s West Side, is a prime sponsor of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.  (ESLNC)

Lawmakers have less than two weeks until the April 1 deadline to enact the fiscal year 2025 state budget. The rally signals growing pressure on lawmakers to offer a lifeline to the local news industry, which has experienced a significant downturn over the past two decades. New York State has experienced a 50 percent decrease in the number of newspapers since 2004, resulting in thousands of lost jobs — and also lost stories. There is a growing number of communities with little or no access to local newspaper coverage: Thirteen New York counties are down to just one newspaper and Orleans County is the first with no local newspaper at all.

Local news publishers from around the state rallied for the key industry-sustaining bill’s passage. At center is Zachary Richner, the founder of the Empire State Local News Coalition. (ESLNC)

Senator Hoylman-Sigal said, “It’s been said that democracy dies in darkness. A thriving local news industry is vital to the health of our democracy, so I’m proud that our Local Journalism Sustainability Act (S.625C) is in the Senate’s one-house budget and I’m hopeful that, through it, we can establish a payroll tax credit to help keep our community news outlets afloat.”

Capped at $20 million statewide, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a bipartisan bill that provides payroll tax credits for the employment of local news journalists. News organizations would receive a 50 percent refundable tax credit against the first $50,000 of each newsroom employee’s salary, up to $200,000 per outlet. This benefit would be limited to print and online newspapers and broadcasters with 100 employees or less and that cover local community news, ensuring that truly local news outlets will receive this assistance. According to the coalition, this bill will be crucial for incentivizing job creation, returning reporters to many of the state’s newsrooms that are becoming increasingly desolate.

“The fight to save local news is a fight to save our democracy,” said Zachary Richner, founder of the Empire State Local News Coalition. “Hometown papers deliver the hyperlocal updates and investigations necessary to sustain a community’s civic and financial well-being. As local news declines, critical stories are lost and communities become more polarized. We’re proud to have the Senate’s support and we call on Governor Hochul and the Assembly to support this industry-saving bill and protect critical newsroom jobs.”

Standing in support of local news were, from left,  Assemblymembers Michaelle Solage and Joseph DeStefano and state Senators Monica Martinez and Brad Hoylman-Sigal. Assemblymember David Weprin, not pictured, also attended the rally. (ESLNC)

“This proposal, if approved, could be a game changer for small- and medium-size news organizations, many of which are struggling to pay bills, keep valued employees and grow,” said Terry Tuthill, president of the New York Press Association. “We’re not asking for a bailout, just meaningful tax relief.”

“Across the state, local media is at risk — community pillars for generations worth saving,” said Mark Vinciguerra, the publisher and president of Capital Region Independent Media. “One of my publications dates back to 1815 and this bill will go a long way toward ensuring it continues to run.”

“Supporting the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is not just about saving a vital American industry; it’s about preserving the heartbeat of democracy at the community level,” said Adam Stone, the publisher at The Examiner News, covering Westchester and White Plains. “By incentivizing the employment of local journalists, this bill empowers communities to stay informed, engaged and united, countering the detrimental effects of news deserts, polarization, misinformation, disinformation and polarized, partisan, national information silos. As a local news publisher, I fully endorse this bill as a vital lifeline for our commitment to holding government accountable and forging community.”

“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act recognizes that news journalists are essential in the many New York State communities where residents are faced with decisions at the grassroots level every day,” said Grant Hamilton, the publisher of Neighbor-to-Neighbor News, which covers the Buffalo region. “Students need to see that jobs will exist for them upon graduation… . This bill helps sustain existing journalism jobs and create new ones.”

Comprising more than 150 print and digital newspapers, the Empire State Local News Coalition launched in 2024 to advocate for sound public policy that ensures that the important work of local independent news organizations can continue to thrive across New York State.

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