State Activity Tracker
State and Local Efforts
More and more state lawmakers are taking a proactive approach to maintaining, understanding and strengthening their local press. Here are some of the most significant efforts:
In 2022, the state legislature allotted $25 million over three years to the journalism school at the University of California-Berkeley to provide fellowships to at least 40 reporters placed in local newsrooms around the state. This proposal emerged after an earlier plan to provide direct aid to newsrooms stalled when journalism groups failed to agree on the approach.
Colorado state legislators proposed a tax credit for small businesses to advertise in local news, based on the Local Journalism Sustainability Act in 2022. It drew support not only from journalism groups but from the League of Women Voters of Colorado. It passed the House Business Affairs and Labor committee as well as the Finance Committee but failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee. The Coalition testified in support and worked closely with the Colorado Press Association.
State Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford, Newington) introduced a state-level version of a policy implemented in New York in 2020 that mandates a certain proportion of government advertising spending go to local news outlets. It would limit the benefits to publications owned and operated in the state of Connecticut. It has been referred to the House Government Administration and Elections and is awaiting a hearing.
The Record Journal in Meriden, Connecticut got approved for a $300,000 American Rescue Plan-funded advertising grant program. Local businesses and nonprofits applied to participate in the program. Those selected received $4,000 in free advertising, $2,000 of which was paid for with city American Rescue Plan funds and another $2,000 in advertising was supplied by the Record Journal. After the costs of implementing the program, the publication netted $235,000. American Rescue Plan funds are still available until the end of 2024. To learn how you can adapt the program, read Rebuild Local News’ bulletin.
Six legislators, led by Del. Joe Vogel (D-Rockville), have introduced the advertising tax credit originally proposed in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. The bill would provide a $1,000 tax credit to local businesses who advertise in qualifying local media and $500 in the subsequent years. As introduced, small businesses of fewer than 50 employees would be able to receive the credit for advertising in both print and digital outlets. In a hearing on Feb. 16, the Maryland, DC and Delaware Press Association endorsed the bill along with the Maryland Retailers Association, the NewsGuild and Rebuild Local News. The state broadcasters association asked that broadcasters be explicitly included as qualifying local media, though based on the language as introduced, they would likely already qualify.
The subscription tax credit originally proposed in the Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced into the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It would offer Massachusetts citizens a $250 refundable tax credit if they purchased subscriptions in local digital or print outlets. As introduced, it’s unclear if the bill would include donations to nonprofit newsrooms, but the sponsoring legislator, Jeffrey Rosario Turco (D-Suffolk), has said the bill will likely be amended as it continues through the legislative process.
New Jersey launched the first-of-its-kind Civic Info Consortium in 2018 to provide grants to civic information producers in the state, including newsrooms. Since then it has given out over $1 million in grants. Learn more.
The New Mexico Fund for Local News has been operating a local news fellowship since 2018. In total, it has placed 18 New Mexico graduates in local newsrooms. This year, the New Mexico legislature is considering a $200,000 appropriation that could be used to scale the program. The bill received a favorable report from the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee with six members voting yes, including Ranking Member Sen. Gay Kernan (R – Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties).
New York City
In 2019, after appeals from the Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order requiring that certain city agencies spend at least 50% of their advertising budgets with community newspapers. The policy had been a big success, providing about $25 million over two years to more than 100 local newsrooms. Learn more.
New York State
After New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D/Working Families Party, Manhattan) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Saratoga) introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act into the New York State Senate and Assembly during the 2021-2022 session, local advocates are pursuing one provision — the payroll tax credit.
A group of lawmakers in Oregon have proposed legislation that would include an allocation to the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon along with the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism (FORJ). Originally the bill also included a tax credit for people to subscribe or donate to local news outlets, but lead sponsor Rep. Khanh Pham (D-Southeast Portland), said during a hearing that the subscription tax credit would be struck from the bill. If passed, the Agora Journalism Center would use the allocation to study Oregon’s information needs and public policies that would best address them. Additionally, the amended bill will also fund the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism and Agora to create a local journalism resource center to help fill urgent newsroom needs around the state.
Washington re-introduced a tax exemption for news publishers in the legislatures and is also pursuing a fellowship program via a budget item.
Fourteen Republicans and two Democrats introduced a proposal to provide a tax credit to small businesses in the state that advertised in local news. The approach, based on the federal Local Journalism Sustainability Act, drew support not only from journalism groups but also associations representing restaurants, bars, and banks. The bill had a hearing in 2021, but didn’t pass. The leaders of the effort, the Wisconsin Press Association, will (with the help of the Rebuild Local News Coalition) push this in the upcoming session. Learn more.