Albany Agenda

New York local news outlets create lobbying coalition to save the industry

The group plans to support bills that subsidize journalism efforts.

Journalists from small outlets are teaming up.

Journalists from small outlets are teaming up. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Journalism, as an industry, has had a rough couple of months with mass layoffs, shuttering publications and labor disputes. Much attention has been paid to larger outlets, but local news publications have been suffering all the same. A coalition of small newspapers from across New York is preparing a legislative push in Albany to protect local news and the communities they serve. 

The Empire State Local News Coalition unites 100 outlets to lobby in Albany to make sure news-friendly bills get passed during budget negotiations. Founder Zack Richner said that connecting all the outlets was pretty straightforward. 

“Everybody has a very close, tight-knit community,” Richner said. “We go to conferences together, we share best practices with each other. A lot of people in the industry, we've all grown up together.”

One bill the coalition is pushing is state Sen. Jessica Ramos’ Local Community and Ethnic Media Commitment Act. Introduced last spring with a continued push in 2024, her bill would require all state agencies to spend 50% of their advertising budget on local or ethnic media. She said in her past role as Bill de Blasio’s director of community and ethnic media she saw the impact community-based news had. 

“One of the little-known facts is that media consumption of community and ethnic media far outweighs the consumption of “mainstream media,” Ramos said. “So I believe we have to meet New Yorkers where they are.”

Outlets that cover less than 20% of the state or are created for communities based on native language, race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nation of origin or disability or immigrant status would be eligible.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal has also introduced legislation, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which would provide tax credits to companies that employ journalists. Legislation is also under development that would provide tax credits for businesses that advertise in community outlets. 

The newly formed coalition includes Richner Communications, Inc.; Eagle Urban Media; BridgeTower Media; Sentinel Media Co.; Ogden Newspapers; Cherry Road Media; Examiner Media; Johnson Newspaper Corp.; Capital Region Independent Media; North Country This Week and; The Village View; Litmor Publishing Corp; Daily Gazette Inc; The Haitian Times; Straus News and Neighbor-To-Neighbor News Inc. 

A large part of the motivation to safeguard the industry is the outsized role it plays in ensuring good government. Studies show that news deserts have lower rates of government accountability, higher political polarization and lower rates of voter engagement. In some cases, the lack of local news can increase taxes.

“We serve a really important role,” Richner said.