Rebuild Local News Hails Passage of Innovative Package to Help Local News in Illinois

The State Legislature’s budget provisions support local news through employment tax credits, a 120-day delay on selling local newspapers to out-of-state buyers, and a scholarship program for in-state journalists

As part of its budget, the Illinois legislature included several proposals to help revive local news in the state, which has seen a staggering 85% drop in the number of reporters since 2005.

The provisions, sponsored by State Senator Steve Stadelman, include:

    • $25 million commitment in employment tax credits to newsrooms that hire or retain local reporters—$5 million over 5 years
    • Newsrooms get $15,000 per current reporter and $25,000 per new hire
    • There’s a $150,000 limit on how much a given newsroom can get, a $250,000 for how many a given corporation can get
    • Available to for-profit and nonprofit news organizations with at least one full-time local reporter

The legislature also approved a separate bill that included Sen. Stadelman’s innovative proposal requiring that any newspaper in Illinois that intends to sell itself to an out-of-state company must give the community and its employees 120-day notice, so that the community can consider organizing an acquisition bid.  This is the first “replanting” provision enacted into law in the United States.

The bill also authorized the state to create a scholarship program for journalists who went to Illinois colleges and universities and are working in Illinois newsrooms. The exact amounts are still to be determined. The bill awaits the governor’s signature, which is expected soon.  This is also a first.

Steven Waldman, the President of Rebuild Local News, which worked closely with Sen. Stadelman on the legislation, stated:

“This is a great step forward, an employment credit with an extra kicker for new hires. That puts the incentives in the right place, and does it in a way with minimal risk for government meddling in editorial independence. 

We also appreciate that Illinois is now the first in the nation to experiment with a ‘replanting’ policy designed to keep local news in local hands. Sen. Stadelman has shown himself to be one of the most important leaders in the drive to save community news.”

The legislation grew out of the work of the Illinois Journalism Task Force. A regulatory process may ensue to clarify additional details about these programs. This breakthrough follows the recent passage of a three-year legislative package in New York last month.