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:

 

California

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.

In the 2023 session, Rep. Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) introduced a bill modeled after the federal Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, but structured as a fee calculation instead of a bargained deal between publishers and platforms. In the California version, a usage fee pool would be calculated based on a yet-to-be-determined percentage. That pool would be divided among qualified news outlets, which at this point is any news outlet that meets the quality standards outlined in the bill and has an audience stake in California, via an arbitration process. The bill became a two year bill and is likely to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late Spring. The Senate Judiciary Committee held an informational hearing on the bill on December 5. Here is the testimony submitted by Rebuild Local News.

Meanwhile, Sen. Glazer introduced a bill, SB 1327, that will provide $500 million in employment credits to newsrooms, including some subsidies for part-time staffers and freelancers. The program would be funded by a fee assessed on Alphabet, Meta and Amazon on the data users exchange for use of their services. The fee is calculated against digital advertising gross receipts in California, since tech firms tend to monetize personal data by using it to target advertisements or sell access to users to advertisers. On May 8, the bill passed the California Senate Revenue and Taxation committee 4-1. On May 16, it passed the Appropriations Committee 4-2. It will now go to the Senate for a floor vote.

Another bill being considered in 2024 would allocate a portion of state advertising dollars to local, ethnic media as well as setting up a grant program for ethnic media. It was originally introduced during the 2023 session, but also became a two-year bill. The policy is supported by Latino Media Collaborative and sponsored by Rep. Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles).

 

Chicago

Local journalism advocates passed an advertising set-aside in Chicago in October 2022 via executive order. The policy is still in the process of being implemented, but newly-elected Mayor Brandon Johnson has expressed support for the policy.

 

Colorado

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. The Colorado Press Association is introducing a bill that would create a grant program to address staffing local newsrooms across the state.

 

Connecticut

In 2023, 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 have limited the benefits to publications owned and operated in the state of Connecticut. It passed the Connecticut Assembly in December, but was not called for a floor vote.

In 2024, Rebuild Local News partnered with independent news organizations in the state to once again advance the policy. Rep. Kate Farrar (D- West Hartford) introduced the bill, which passed the Government Administration and Elections joint committee on March 8, and then the Connecticut Assembly on April 29. Extensive outreach and lobbying efforts by Connecticut stakeholders, involving over 65 publishers, civic organizations and community groups, garnered substantial support among the majority of Senate lawmakers.  Alas, the bill never came to a vote, mirroring the fate of the 2023 bill. The state’s coalition is now regrouping to determine next steps.

 

Meriden, Connecticut

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.

 

Illinois

In May 2024, the Illinois Legislature passed a budget including an employment tax credit to support local news, committing $25 million over five years for newsrooms hiring or retaining local reporters. The subsidy is available to for-profit and nonprofit organizations with at least one full-time local reporter, providing $15,000 per current reporter and $25,000 per new hire. There is a $150,000 limit on how much a single newsroom can receive, and a $250,000 limit for any given corporation.

Additionally, the Strengthening Community Media bill was passed, requiring a 120-day notice to employees and the community before a local news organization can be sold to an out-of-state company. This “replanting” provision, the first of its kind to be passed, gives the community time to organize an acquisition bid to keep local news in local hands. The bill also creates a scholarship program for journalists from Illinois colleges who pledge to work in state newsrooms.

 

Maryland

Six legislators, led by Del. Joe Vogel (D-Rockville), 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 bill stalled after the hearing due to the calculated costs of the bill, a familiar issue with the advertising tax credit. Rebuild Local News is working to refine how the costs of the bill are estimated.


Massachusetts

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. Later in the session, a version of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act was also introduced.

 

New Jersey

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 $5.5 million in grants. Learn more

A growing coalition of local newsrooms in New Jersey are also in the beginning stages of pursuing a bill that would allocate a portion of government department advertising dollars to community and local news outlets in that state.

 

New Mexico

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. In 2023, the New Mexico legislature considered 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). The allocation was lowered to $125,000, but was signed by the governor in April. Mark Glaser and Rashad Mahmood of the fund say the money will help New Mexico Fund for Local News scale the program to 15 fellows. The fund is working with lawmakers to pursue more funding. 

 

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

In May 2024, the state included the Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs Program in the budget, allocating $90 million over three years to New York newsrooms based on the number of employees and their compensation. The program will undergo a regulatory process this summer where stakeholders can weigh in on how it will be implemented. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2025.

 

Oregon

A group of lawmakers in Oregon proposed legislation in 2023 that would have included 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 have used the allocation to study Oregon’s information needs and public policies that would best address them. Additionally, the amended bill would also have funded the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism and Agora to create a local journalism resource center to help fill urgent newsroom needs around the state. The bill failed in the 2023 session, but advocates remain interested in pursuing public policy to support local news in upcoming sessions.

 

San Francisco

In March 2023, the San Francisco board of supervisors approved a resolution that will mandate city departments disclose how they spend their advertising budgets in addition to encouraging departments to spend at least 50% of their advertising dollars with community, ethnic and hyperlocal outlets. The proposal represents a new approach to leverage local advertising dollars. The provision comes just short of a mandate, but outlines strong and detailed transparency requirements that will give local news outlets a better bargaining position in increasing city advertising spending. San Francisco State University has also stepped in to help implement this provision, ensuring that local news outlets get registered as city contractors, an important first step in accessing city advertising dollars, and studying the level and result of city advertising spend.

 

Washington

The Washington State Legislature passed a decade-long policy that completely waives the business and occupations tax for newspaper publishers. It would also include eligible digital news outlets if they had a printed publication as recently as Jan. 1, 2008. The Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), and the House companion bill by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle). It passed the Washington Senate, House of Representatives, and, more recently, was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

Washington’s legislature approved $2.4 million over two years to support 8 journalists a year, paid $55,000 each, through a fellowship program to be run by Washington State University. Half of the fellows will be graduates of the University.  Program details on how the fellowships and participating newsrooms will be chosen are still being drafted.

 

Washington D.C.

Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George and Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced the Local News Funding Act, a first-of-its-kind bill that gives DC residents the ability to support local newsrooms of their choice with news coupons. The legislation is influenced by Democracy Policy Network’s Local News Dollars framework and is funded by a proposed 0.01% of the D.C. budget, which, in 2024, would be $11.5 million. Under the bill, every registered voter in D.C. would receive five news coupons that they can distribute to local newsrooms via a portal. The coupons don’t have an attached monetary value, but as a proportional value. After every calendar quarter, the number of news vouchers each outlet received is calculated, with newsrooms receiving a portion of available funds equivalent to the proportion of news vouchers they received.

WAMU announced it would be closing its digital news website DCist on Feb. 23 and laid off 16 members of its staff (official press releases reported 15 staffers were let go, but reports from laid-off workers say there were 16 staffers). Amid the closure, 10 of the D.C.’s 13 Councilmembers tweeted support for local news with Councilmembers Lewis George and Brianne Nadeau highlighting the importance of passing the Local News Funding Act amid continued cuts to local news staffs across the District.


Wisconsin

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 2022, but didn’t pass. The bill was once again pursued during the 2023 legislative session, but did not become law. Learn more.

Meanwhile, a group of Democrats introduced a package of policies, including a fellowship program, a subscription tax credit and a local journalism grant program modeled after the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, during the 2024 session. Free Press has endorsed the package and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association has endorsed the fellowship program component of the bill.