Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) announced she has introduced the “New York Local News Act” (S.7510). This act would establish a system for supporting innovation in delivering local news and civic information in New York state in partnership between the state, SUNY and CUNY campuses and local non-profit organizations.
This act would establish a commission with staff, including an executive director, program officers and administrators who will collaborate with partners to provide grant funding for innovative ways to support local news outlets and delivery. The bill specifies that grants must be made with metrics in place to ensure effective evaluation and editorial independence for appropriate projects.
Local media organizations are a valuable source of information for citizens all over New York. In the past 15 years, 25 percent of the country’s newspapers have closed. Half of all counties in the United States have only one newspaper, while many of the rest have none. With shrinking revenues and the financial effects of COVID-19, many newspapers are closing for good. Without local media organizations, people are left in news deserts where they are not aware of the issues in their communities.
The coronavirus pandemic provides an important example of the need for more local media. The media acts as the gatekeeper of information and as a source of trustworthy news that people turn to; however, in many news deserts, community members turn to social media where misinformation is rampant. Local media provided community members with up-to-date COVID19 case numbers and information on testing and vaccination sites.
“Local media also plays an important role in our democracy,” May said. “The media covers elected officials, new legislation and provides a check on the government. This is essential to democracy because it makes constituents more informed, which will aid them during elections.”
May said this bill would help New Yorkers be more informed on the most pressing issues facing their communities.
“People still tend to trust their local media outlets more than national media outlets, but for many counties, there may not be any local media or just one,” May said. “By working with universities and local communities, this bill provides targeted help for communities and underserved populations that need help the most. Investing in local media will benefit our democracy and help keep misinformation out of communities.
“The decline of local news sources has left our residents and communities without access to critical information. 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.”