A Syracuse-area lawmaker on Wednesday unveiled a measure meant to bolster local news in New York through grants and partnerships with the state's public colleges and universities.
The bill backed by Sen. Rachel May, a Democrat, comes amid a generational decline in local news, with 25% of newspapers in the country closing in the last 15 years.
Local news outlets, however, delivered immediate information about the COVID-19 pandemic as schools and businesses closed and later when the vaccine became available. And research has shown local news can engender more trust than national outlets.
But the last decades have been tough on local outlets, with many newspapers closing or facing consolidation amid falling subscription rates.
“The decline of local news sources has left our residents and communities without access to critical information,” May said. “Local news has always been the tether that keeps people engaged, informed, and connected to where they live and those around them. Whether it’s the local Little League’s scores, the conversation at this week’s Town Board meeting, or the location of the next local vaccine clinic, this information is vital to a thriving community. This legislation will help begin to rebuild trusted local news sources across the state so that we may all be better informed on what is taking place in our towns and neighborhoods.”
The measure as proposed would create a commission with an executive director and program officers to provide grant funding that would support local news outlets and delivery. The bill also includes requirements for metrics that would seek to ensure editorial independence and effective evaulation.
The measure would also include a component to work with the state and city university campuses as part of a partnership to foster development.