Local news organizations would be eligible for business tax credits to hire journalists, and subscribers would be eligible for a personal income tax credit under legislation proposed Wednesday by two New York state lawmakers.
The tax credits are being proposed as local newspapers have come under economic strain and increasingly under the control of hedge funds.
Alden Capital, a hedge fund that has come under criticism for its purchasing of newspapers only to reduce staff and sell real estate, has reportedly sought a purchase of Lee Enterprises, a chain that publishes papers in Buffalo, Glens Falls and St. Louis.
“Community news is the bedrock of our local democracy. But since 2004, more than 20% of American newspapers have gone out of business, including 40% of weekly papers in New York," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman. "Local news organizations are struggling to stay afloat against powerful media conglomerates that threaten to shut out the issues important to our local communities. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a commonsense way to help local news outlets survive and continue to inform the public in a tumultuous media landscape.”
The tax credits would apply to local newspapers and digital publications in order to bolster subscriptions and hiring. Subscribers of local publications would receive an annual tax credit for 80% of the subscription cost in the first year, and 50% in subsequent years, up to $250 a year.
Local news organizations that employ local journalists full time would get a quarterly tax credit of up to 50% of their salary for the first year of their employment and 30% in subsequent years for up to five years total.
“News and information from local sources about our communities and community institutions help us to trust and understand our world and our place in the world," said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. "It is a terrible irony that as the ability to communicate information increases, our ability to know and trust the sources of communication has precipitously decreased. Whether small towns or big cities, New Yorkers need local journalism to reliably monitor and report on uniquely local concerns from school board policy and the actions of municipal boards to the volunteer organizations and activities that enrich our lives.”