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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
 

Dudley: New York saving newsroom jobs

By Brier Dudley
Published: April 29, 2024, 6:01am

Tax credits for preserving and adding newsroom jobs are the most direct way for policymakers to help save local journalism. Four years after these credits were proposed in Congress, New York last week approved a state-level version.

Proponents hope this becomes a model for other states and prods Congress to provide such credits nationally, before more of the local press system is lost.

“We are really excited not only that this is the first tax credit like this in the country but that we’ve done it in a way that I believe totally preserves journalistic integrity,” said Zack Richner, whose family publishes two dozen local newspapers and prints others at a Long Island facility.

Richner in February organized a coalition of more than 200 newspapers to advance a tax proposal that had been lingering in the state capital. Their lobbying drew support from national journalism advocates, including labor unions, Microsoft and the Rebuild Local News Coalition. The credits were included in a $237 billion state budget.

New York budgeted $30 million per year over three years for the credits.

Broadly, the budget provides $13 million per year for outlets employing fewer than 100 employees, $13 million for outlets with more than 100 and another $4 million to incentivize hiring more journalists. Media outlets may receive up to $50,000 in refundable tax credits per journalist, providing up to $300,000 per outlet.

New York has the most journalists per capita among states. It is home to several prominent national newspapers but the state is mostly served by smaller outlets experiencing the same economic crisis as the overall industry.

“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,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who sponsored the tax credit bill.

Washington has a gross receipts tax on business. Last April, the Legislature waived this business and occupation tax on publishers for 10 years, saving them an estimated $10 million.

In Congress, credits were reintroduced in July as the Community News and Small Business Support Act, by U.S. Reps. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.

Press Forward local news grants

Seven months after launching a $500 million fund to help save local journalism, the Press Forward alliance of philanthropies is soliciting grant applications from local news outlets. Press Forward announced that it will give $100,000 grants to around 100 news outlets, with applications being taken from April 30 to June 12.

Dale Anglin, Press Forward’s director, said one of its guiding principles is equity and these grants are part of that emphasis. They are intended to support outlets in underserved communities.

“Your community could be LGBTQ, your community could be Black, your community could be three counties (or) three neighborhoods on the west side of your county, right?” she said. “It could be a language group.”

While Press Forward is playing an important role in supporting the industry and encouraging additional philanthropic support, it’s also clear that much more is needed to stabilize and regrow America’s gutted local press system.


Brier Dudley is editor of The Seattle Times Save the Free Press Initiative.

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