Tax credit aimed at aiding local newsrooms adopted

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Contributed photo. Publishers, journalists and lawmakers banded together at the Capitol in March to promote a tax credit aimed at helping local newspapers survive and thrive.

By Doug LaRocque and Melanie Lekocevic

A payroll tax credit designed to support local news outlets was approved as part of the final New York state budget unveiled Saturday.

The passage follows months of lobbying by journalists and news advocates for passage of the tax credit, which is modeled on the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

Under the tax credit, eligible newspapers will benefit from the $30 million program that will provide a 50% refundable credit against the first $50,000 of a journalist’s salary, up to a total of $300,000 for each news outlet.

The program also sets aside $4 million to incentivize print and broadcast outlets to hire new journalists.

In January, the Empire State Local News Coalition — comprised of over 200 local publications — was formed to help push the tax credit across the finish line. It is the first tax credit of its kind in the nation.

Zak Richner, president and founder of the news coalition, labeled the passage of the act as “an absolutely amazing feat, as evidenced by the fact that no other state has successfully enacted similar legislation.”

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who stressed the importance of maintaining viable and independent newsrooms.

“I’m elated that our first-in-the-nation Local Journalism Sustainability Act is passing in the state budget,” Hoylman-Sigal said. “A thriving local news industry is vital to the health of our democracy and it’s our responsibility to help ensure New Yorkers have access to independent and community-focused journalism. Thank you to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Gov. Hochul, our Assembly sponsor [Carrie] Woerner and the over 200 local publications of the Empire State Local News Coalition who helped pass our bill. Our efforts will help ensure that our democracy will not die in darkness.”

Capital Region Independent Media and NYVT Media worked tirelessly on behalf of the legislation’s passage; combined, the group owns and publishes seven community papers, including six in New York state.

“The passage of this historic and landmark legislation is a true game changer for local media!” said Capital Region Independent Media President Mark Vinciguerra. “In our operation alone, we will be able to add reporting resources and cover beats and communities more fully. Thanks to the legislative leadership, the governor and all those who lobbied so hard on behalf of this law.”

Publisher and Vice President Warren Dews Jr. said the legislation will have a far-reaching impact.

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and I have seen companies that don’t care about local media kill what I love. This new legislation will change lives and communities across the state and beyond,” Dews said.

Legislative support

One of the sponsors of the legislation was Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-WF Round Lake), who said it is important to ensure that small local newsrooms remain viable.

“Our local news outlets are vanishing. As more and more become absorbed into national conglomerates or rely on the national press to fill their pages, I am incredibly proud to have secured this new position in the state budget that supports sustainability and growth of the local, independent news industry,” Woerner said.

In a joint statement, Assemblymen Scott Bendett and Matt Simpson said they were glad to support the bill, noting that as representatives of primarily rural districts, they understand firsthand the importance of local news.

State Senators Michelle Hinchey and Dan Stec echoed their comments and said they were proud to help support the sustainability of community newspapers.