Westchester advocates, Empire State Local News Coalition rally to save local journalism

Call for Albany to pass Local Journalism Sustainability Act

Zachary Richner of Richner Communications and founding member of Empire State Local News Coalition

On Thursday, Westchester elected officials, grassroots advocates and the Empire State Local News Coalition rallied at the Hastings-on-Hudson Public Library to save local news. The event, organized by startup founder Lucas Cioffi and the Westchester Youth Congress, is the latest milestone in an emerging movement that started following the recent closure of three beloved local papers in Westchester.

Earlier this year, The Scarsdale Inquirer, Rivertowns Enterprise and Bedford Review Record announced they would suspend publication until they could find a path toward financial sustainability. The event signals growing momentum for advocacy efforts and underscores the worsening crisis of local journalism felt across the state.

The Westchester advocates were joined by the recently formed Empire State Local News Coalition, a statewide advocacy group comprising more than 150 local newspapers in New York. Participants rallied for the inclusion of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (S.625B/A2958C) in the state budget. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, provides tax credits to local news outlets for the employment of local news journalists.

The rally took place just one day after more than 50 newspapers across New York State ran an editorial urging passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. Participants also announced a grassroots petition in support of the bill has received more than 360 signatures from local Westchester residents.

New York State has experienced a 40% decrease of newspapers between 2004 and 2019. Since then, the number of journalists has halved. There is a growing number of communities with little to no access to local newspaper coverage: 13 New York counties are down to just one newspaper and Orleans County is the first with no local newspaper at all. The legislation will incentivize more hiring opportunities to help strengthen a workforce that has been severely affected by mass layoffs and closures.

“For many years, most local news has been hanging on the balance. Costs have gone up and circulation has gone down. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act provides tax credits that will make it easier for publishers to pay their local journalists This is a common-sense bill that does not interfere with First Amendment functions. I’m proud to cosponsor this bill and live in a community where hundreds of people turn out for an issue like this,” said Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky.

“[Local news] tells our stories. It tells stories about events that are happening. It tells stories about local luminaries, extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. As a politician, [local news’ role] is to connect us to one another.” said Nicola Armacost, mayor of Hastings.

“The lack of newspapers is a big threat to our democracy. The proposed legislation to give tax credits to media outlets will save taxpayers a significant amount of money. Local newspapers provide critical scrutiny over local government, helping prevent wasteful spending and corruption. Local newspapers play a critical role in ensuring competitive elections by covering candidates, incumbent or not. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act should be a priority for lawmakers in Albany and we should continue exploring creative ways to help local newspapers survive,” said Paul Feiner, Greenburgh town supervisor.

“With local newspapers shuttering across the country, we need a lifeline to ensure that the stories of our neighborhoods, our struggles, and our triumphs continue to be told,” said Zachary Richner of Richner Communications and founding member of Empire State Local News Coalition. “Now is the time to rally behind our local news outlets, and the Empire State Local News Coalition is committed to supporting and preserving the vital role they play in our communities. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act is imperative toward meeting this goal and we look forward to continuing working with lawmakers to ensure this critical bill is approved.”

“I was recently laid off when the Scarsdale Inquirer suspended publication after covering the community for more than 100 years.  We tackled tough subjects while remaining steadfast in our commitment to accuracy and high-caliber reporting. The Inquirer and its two sister publications which also suspended publication in January papers were a critical part of the infrastructure in Westchester county. The outpouring of support has been a remarkable testament to the deep connections and the deep impact that they had. Make your representative know you care and urge them to support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act,” said Valerie Abrahams, former editor-in-chief of the Scarsdale Inquirer.

“Local journalism is not just about holding government officials accountable, it’s able to forge communities. We are a glue for communities and create a common set of facts for communities to debate in this era of misinformation. This bill is not just about the newspapers that have closed over the last few years, but also the survivors who stand today and cannot completely fulfill our mission. This bill is absolutely urgent to ensure that more newspapers don’t go out of business and that more newspapers can continue serving communities,” said Adam Stone, publisher, Westchester Examiner.

“We have to mobilize ourselves, stand for something that's important. Hundreds of people are coming together after unfortunately three local papers announced they were shutting down. It's time for all of us to connect with each other and see what we can do locally,” said Lucas Cioffi, Qiqo.org.

“There are countless small businesses and also non-profit organizations who depend on local news, both through advertising and also through coverage of grand openings, milestones, fundraisers and special events. We took journalism for granted, but the time is to act now. It's time to help make the work of journalists more equitable and sustainable. Global news is critical community infrastructure and a healthy democracy,” said Sandra Nam Cioffi, Qiqo.org.

“Local news is very important to me living in a small community like Burlington. I remember the first time reading my name in the paper as a high school student athlete. That's very special to me and I know that others experience the same joy reading our names in the paper,” said Jake Epple, Westchester Youth Congress.

About Empire State Local News Coalition:

The Empire State Local News Coalition is a statewide alliance of hometown newspapers dedicated to ensuring the long-term sustainability of local journalism in New York. Since 2005, over 3,000 newspapers have closed across the country, resulting in thousands of layoffs and countless communities losing essential platforms for sharing their stories. If these alarming trends continue, New Yorkers from Oswego to Stony Brook are at risk of losing their ability to have their voices heard and shape public policy. To learn more, visit SaveNYLocalNews.com.