Opinion: New York Must Enact the Local Journalism Sustainability Act

Editorial cartoon by Rob Tornoe, courtesy of America’s Newspapers.

BY THE EMPIRE STATE LOCAL NEWS COALITION, WITH ADDITIONAL TEXT BY CHELSEA COMMUNITY NEWS FOUNDER/EDITOR SCOTT STIFFLER | As objective and independent news writers and editors, we have an imperative to cover the issues most important to the people of our coverage area: Chelsea, Flatiron/NoMad, Meatpacking District, Hudson Yards, Hell’s Kitchen/Times Square, and the Penn Station area.

Our experienced freelance reporters are dedicated to covering the work of local electeds, NYPD personnel, and community board members while also uplifting the stories of community changemakers (and uncovering truths that some would rather keep hidden). But, amidst industry challenges, it is no longer unfathomable to picture a future when New York State is completely without local newspapers and other local news outlets such as the website you’re visiting right now.

According to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, two-and-a-half newspapers now close each week in the U.S. More than 3,000 newspapers have shuttered across the country since 2004, and New York has been hit particularly hard. In 2004, New York boasted 501 newspapers. Today, it’s only 260. In 2022 alone, 30 newspapers closed across the state. A quarter of New York’s counties are news deserts—down to their last newspaper. Orleans County recently became the first in the state to have none. These closures have also resulted in thousands of lost journalism and newsroom-supporting jobs.

Local news matters. Studies show that when a community loses its source of local news, it experiences decreased voter turnout and civic engagement; increased municipal borrowing costs that lead to higher taxes; and decreased transparency among government and business officials, leading to increased waste, fraud, and abuse. As newspapers shutter, communities become more polarized, leaving us stuck in a never-ending doom loop where we lose sight of our shared values. During this era of intense national partisanship, local news offers a path forward.

The time to act is now. That is why Chelsea Community News has joined with over 150 other members of New York’s local press to launch the Empire State Local News Coalition.

The Empire State Local News Coalition, comprising both print and online local newspapers, is advocating for sound public policy that ensures the important work of local news organizations can continue in our state. Through our independent journalism, we aim to serve, inform, uplift, and protect New Yorkers. Our coalition cares deeply about our local communities as well as the future of New York’s free press. However, market forces are making it nearly impossible for us to survive. So, together, we are sounding the alarm bell for our leaders in Albany to hear.

At the heart of our advocacy is the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. Sponsored by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and New York State Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, with the bipartisan support of 55 co-sponsors, this bill provides tax credits to local news outlets for the employment of local news journalists. News organizations are incentivized to actually add jobs, returning reporters to many of the state’s newsrooms, which are becoming increasingly desolate. Importantly, the bill is also content neutral, meaning that any legitimate local news outlet—left, right, or in between—can benefit from this bill. The objectivity of the bill’s eligibility requirements means the legislation cannot be weaponized to penalize news organizations critical of government officials.

As New York loses talented journalists, lawmakers must act to ensure the industry is allowed not only to survive but also to thrive. Only local news outlets—with boots-on-the-ground journalists—can deliver the hyperlocal updates and investigations necessary to sustain a community’s civic and financial well-being. Imagine no stories about the community board meetings or the school budget debate. No profiles of that newly opened small business. No obituary of a beloved longtime local. And no investigative reporting to hold the corrupt accountable or champion beleaguered tenants.

We need your help to save local news in New York. To get the Local Journalism Sustainability Act across the finish line, lawmakers need to hear from you about why your local news outlet matters and why this bill is important to you. If you would like to help, reach out to your local representatives to let them know you stand with local news.

Support the New York Local Journalism Sustainability Act

—Contact New York State Governor Kathy Hochul at 518-474-8390 or click here to visit the governor’s website, and send a message by accessing the “Contact” page.

—Contact New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal at 212-633-8052 or hoylman@nysenate.gov.

—Contact New York State Assemblymember Tony Simone at 212-807-7900 or simonet@nyassembly.gov.

—Contact New York City Council Member Erik Bottcher at 212-564-7757 or District3@council.nyc.gov.

Chelsea Community News is a proud member of the Empire State Local News Coalition. For more info about the Coalition, including various ways to support it, visit SaveNYLocalNews.com.

Chelsea Community News is an independent, hyperlocal news, arts, events, info, and opinion website made possible with the help of our awesome advertisers and the support of our readers. Our Promise: Never a paywall, no pop-up ads, all content is FREE. With that in mind, if circumstances allow, please consider taking part in our GoFundMe campaign (click here). To make a direct donation, give feedback, send a Letter to the Editor, or contact our founder/editor, email Scott Stiffler via scott@chelseacommunitynews.com.

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One Response to "Opinion: New York Must Enact the Local Journalism Sustainability Act"

  1. Pingback: Guest Opinion: The Time to Act is Now: Support The Local Journalism Sustainability Act - Chelsea Community News

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