NYS Senator Hoylman-Sigal Tells Why He Led Charge to Help Embattled Local News Industry

Local news is in crisis. In an exclusive report, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal reveals why he became one of the key leaders who pushed through a bill that gives $90 million in tax credits to local newspapers and broadcasters over the next three years. He hopes it becomes a role model for other states.

| 10 May 2024 | 05:26

Last month, New York’s leaders passed a historic $237 billion state budget for the 2025 fiscal year. The budget is a moral document; it’s a record of how we’ll work to ease the burdens of our most vulnerable neighbors and build toward a better, brighter future for all. This year’s spending plan included investments in housing, public safety, education, health services, and environmental protections

The budget also included the New York Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs Program, a victory for anyone who values a free, independent press, which I was proud to champion as the lead sponsor in the State Senate. This program, initially baselined at $30 million per year for three years, is a first-in-the-nation tax credit to support the employment of local journalists in newsrooms across the state. This measure incentivizes outlets to not only preserve jobs but to create new ones, returning reporters to many of the state’s emptying newsrooms and opening the door for more diverse and inclusive coverage.

The truth is the local news industry is in crisis. It seems like every week, we see the headlines announcing yet another publication has closed up shop. In fact, New York has lost half of its newspapers since 2004. In 2023 alone, 29 papers shuttered across the state. And now, a quarter of New York counties are considered news deserts, down to their last local newspaper. We’ve lost countless stories and perspectives from communities across the state. This decline also directly translates to thousands of erased jobs that once kept journalists and their families fed.

Beyond functioning as a job creation measure, this tax credit is an investment in our democracy. The sheer scale of lost newspapers and media consolidation has severely hampered access to local news coverage. Studies show that as communities lose their local news source, polarization increases, voter turnout dwindles, transparency wanes, and municipal borrowing costs soar, creating an environment ripe for waste and fraud. For this reason some have dubbed this credit the ‘George Santos Prevention Act’ because many believe it was the lack of local press coverage that enabled Santos to spin his web of lies undetected and ultimately be elected two years ago. Whether they’re covering a school board meeting or conducting an in-depth investigation of a local elected, hyperlocal news organizations play a critical role in keeping our communities educated and informed—an essential component of any healthy democracy.

With the Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs Credit, each eligible news organization will receive a 50 percent refundable credit against the first $50,000 of a journalist’s salary, up to $300,000 per outlet. Twenty six million dollars will be evenly distributed between outlets with fewer than 100 employees and those with more than 100, ensuring that hyperlocal, independent newspapers have a fair shot to access these funds. An additional $4 million fund will award eligible outlets with a $5,000 credit for each new journalist they hire, up to $20,000 per organization. News organizations will now receive up to $320,000 a year in much-needed relief, allowing publishers to invest in bolstering their operations and expanding their important work.

This legislation made it past the finish line thanks to the advocacy of the Empire State Local News Coalition, a newly formed group of nearly 200 hometown news groups across New York. Across the state, newspapers including Chelsea News, Our Town, and West Side Spirit sounded the alarm on the existential threat they face and New Yorkers rallied behind them. Labor unions including the NYS AFL-CIO and CWA District 1 also played a critical role in rallying support for the bill.

Local newspapers are part of the fabric of American life. I’m proud to have carried this bill in the State Senate and built a broad, bipartisan coalition in the Legislature to save local news in New York. We are now the first state in the nation to actually invest in preserving the Freedom of the Press, enshrined in the First Amendment. Similar bills are being considered in statehouses across the country and even within Congress—we hope that the New York Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs Credit will offer a replicable model for delivering this industry-saving legislation.

As you all know: if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

“The truth is the local news industry is in crisis.” NYS Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, co-sponsor of the