Sample from our Examiner+ newsletter
I’m excited to participate as a member later today in a meeting of an organization named Rebuild Local News and report back what I learn.
A nonprofit, the group is advocating for public policy designed to refortify the infrastructure of a hobbled local news industry.
“The collapse of local news poses a massive crisis for American communities and democracy,” Steven Waldman, president of the Rebuild Local News organization, stated in prepared remarks quoted on the organization’s website.
“Part of the solution is smart, nonpartisan public policy that carefully preserves editorial independence,” continues Waldman, also the co-founder of Report for America, an innovative organization in its own right. “We have had this at other points in American history, and we must again.”
Most of you are already familiar with the local news industry crisis but here’s a quick recap:
Over the past almost 20 years, more than 2,000 newspapers have been shuttered. There are about 1,800 American communities that had at least one newspaper that now have none. And in about 90 percent of the communities that lost a newspaper, no digital startup has filled the void.
Technological disruption upended the old business model but didn’t deliver an obvious replacement.
All the doom and gloom is a sad old song by now. But Rebuild Local News isn’t just singing the blues. It’s advocating for bold action to address the crisis.
The group’s top priorities include:
- Tax credits for hiring local reporters
- Tax credits for small businesses that advertise with local news
- Tax credits for consumers to subscribe or donate to local news
- Government advertising with local news instead of social media
In addition to federal action, the group is also lobbying on the state level, even launching an activity tracker to monitor the efforts.
For instance, the organization is championing legislation in Maryland — just last month, a hearing was held in the state for a bill that would create a refundable tax credit for local businesses to advertise in local news outlets.
(Here in New York, State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act during the 2021-2022 session.)
While Waldman sympathizes with the discomfort many journalists understandably experience with any policy that links the industry’s prospects to public action, he emphasizes not just the severity of the crisis but also history.
As he explains, the Post Office Act of 1792, for example, provided a lower postage rate to newspapers.
“In the past, government has devised policies that protected editorial independence,” he wrote in a piece last month for Columbia Journalism Review. “The Founding Fathers believed it was crucial to have not just the right to a free press but the reality of a functioning free press. So they decided to give a massive subsidy to newspapers.”
As for our own local news coverage this week, Examiner reporter Abby Luby writes about the latest on the Putnam Valley water contamination issue, capturing a heated exchange at a meeting between an area activist and the embattled fire department.
“We just found out a little bit more about one of the biggest scandals in our town, namely the dumping that took place on the fire department property back in 2016 when someone from the Putnam Valley Fire Department allowed a private contractor to dump contaminated fill,” the activist said in part.
A fire official later replied: “We have been accused as well as other state and local agencies of being part of a vast conspiracy and coverup and that we accepted money for allowing illegal and reprehensible dumping on our property. These accusations are outrageous, without merit, insulting and completely baseless.”
Check out the details here in Abby’s report.
In the features department, Examiner digital editor Robert Schork prepared a piece about tomorrow’s annual Battle of the Badges, a charity hockey game between the White Plains firefighters and White Plains police at the Ebersole Ice Rink in White Plains. All proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House.
Robert starts his story by introducing readers to Mount Kisco’s Christine Dennett, who began volunteering in guest services at the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley in Valhalla in 2015.
“Never did she think she’d soon become a guest resident of the House herself,” Robert writes.
Check out the full story here.
Robert also penned an engaging piece about White Plains resident Ellen Holly, who co-starred on ABC’s One Life to Live.
All right, I’m done writing for the week. I’ll let you know how the Rebuild Local News meeting goes. Have a nice weekend and see you here Monday.