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Bill Would Stop Bleeding of Local Newsrooms By Providing Incentives For Additional Hires & Expanded Coverage
By David Carlucci
In an era where the pulse of a community is often measured in headlines, the ominous decline of local news is sending ripples across the nation. According to a 2022 report from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, a staggering one-fourth of newspapers have already vanished, and the forecast for 2025 paints an even grimmer picture, with an anticipated loss of one-third of these essential community pillars.
Nowhere is this crisis more palpable than in New York state, where nearly half of the weekly papers have succumbed to the winds of change. As these publications fade away, they leave behind news deserts, voids in local coverage that deprive residents of crucial information about their own communities.
Amidst this journalistic drought, a ray of hope emerges in the form of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a proposed New York State bill tailored to breathe life back into local newsrooms. At its core is a strategic tax credit designed to infuse funds into the veins of local journalism. This financial boost aims to empower news outlets, be they traditional newspapers, web-only platforms, or broadcast stations, to not only weather the storm but thrive.
The bill’s ambition is clear: stop the bleeding of local newsrooms and resuscitate their ability to report on the matters that hit closest to home. By providing incentives for hiring additional journalists and expanding local coverage, the legislation seeks to reverse the unsettling trend of disappearing newspapers and news outlets.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that dozens of newspapers nationwide lack a single full-time reporter, according to the newspaper’s analysis and industry observers.
“Many newspapers are so depleted in staff, or maybe have no staff, that they’re not able to provide the sort of communication residents in that community need to make wise decisions,” said Penelope Abernathy, a leading author on a recent report on the state of local news in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports.
The lack of local news coverage makes it more difficult to detect corruption. Coverage forces accountability from officials who make policy and control the purse.
The hollowing out of local newsrooms has brought waves of consolidations and closures. Local news organizations like Rockland County Business Journal have sought to fill the void.
In essence, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a lifeline for the heart of communities, ensuring that the stories that matter most—the town council decisions, the high school sports triumphs, the small business spotlights—continue to find their way into the hands and hearts of the people they impact.
As the bill navigates the legislative landscape, its potential impact goes beyond the fate of newsrooms. It’s a commitment to preserving the democratic bedrock that is a well-informed citizenry. In a time when misinformation proliferates and social bonds fray, local journalism stands as a beacon of accountability, fostering a shared understanding that binds communities together.
The fight to salvage local news is not just about safeguarding an industry; it’s about sustaining the essence of community, where knowledge is power, and understanding is the bridge that spans diverse voices. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act, with its promise of revitalizing local newsrooms, stands as a testament to the belief that, even in the face of challenges, the heartbeat of a community should never fade to silence.
David Carlucci consults organizations on navigating government and securing funding. He served for ten years in the New York Senate.