Editorial | New York state should deliver newspapers a front-page rescue

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act will help keep the presses running and reporters employed all over New York.
Photo by Mac Sorensen

Albany lawmakers have the chance this month to do something their colleagues in Washington, DC couldn’t: Give a major shot in the arm to local journalism.

The New York version of the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act” is being considered as being enacted as part of the state budget due to be adopted on or about April 1. If passed, the act would provide more tax credits over the next five years to newspaper publishers across the state for the purpose of employing full-time reporters and editors.

We thank state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Carrie Woerner, the primary sponsors of this legislation, for bringing it forward for consideration. It’s believed that legislators are considering rolling the Local Journalism Sustainability Act into the final, negotiated state budget this spring, but we need you, our readers, to reach out to your state elected officials to communicate how important local news is to you and how this bill would help your local news coverage.

The federal version was part of the failed Build Back Better bill, but we hope that both New York Democrats and Republicans recognize the value of good journalism in their communities — New York’s version ought to be overwhelmingly adopted. 

The costs of supporting free and independent journalism through tax breaks, similar to those offered to the entertainment industry, are small — but the return on the investment is exponentially larger.

Without question, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act will do wonders for a New York journalism industry hard hit by years of economic difficulty — from soaring prices of newsprint in recent months to massive reductions in print advertising over the past two decades. Newsrooms across the Empire State have decreased in size; some have shuttered altogether.

According to the New York News Publishers Association, New York state saw its number of daily newspapers drop from 62 to 54 between 2004 and 2019. The loss was even more staggering for weekly newspapers across the Empire State, as the number plunged during those same 15 years, from 439 in 2004 to 249 in 2019.

The free press acts as an unofficial check on the three branches of government — serving the readers with independence, obligated to accurately, fairly and truthfully report what’s happening while holding powerful people and agencies accountable. Companies like ours are also able to offer our content in large part for free making news accessible and available to all.

From an economic standpoint, the tax credits provided through this act will help employ reporters and editors, keeping an important sector of our economy sustainable. According to the Economic Policy Institute, every 100 jobs in newspapers and related media sustains 268 additional jobs.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act will strengthen and reinvigorate journalism in New York at a critical time. It will ensure that your local newspapers and websites will always be there to tell you what’s going on, what you need to know, and what you ought to know.

We urge the state legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul to make this act part of the state budget both now, and in the years to come. Let’s deliver a front-page rescue for all of New York! Please call your State Senators and Assemblymembers.