By Elinor Tatum

The New York Amsterdam News was founded in 1909 on a dressmakers table in an apartment on Amsterdam Ave. in the San Juan Hill section of New York City. It was founded to tell the story of Black New Yorkers, all of us. Those that have been here for generations, those that have just been here for days; but we are here to tell the story, navigate the waters, so to speak. We are the voice, and as such we represent the community. But there is a problem. 

Across the country, community journalism has been collapsing. Social media platforms are eating away many of the local advertising dollars. In other cases, our neighborhood small businesses have been hard hit by COVID and other economic forces. The cost of newsprint bias has risen and newsstands are disappearing.  

The result: a massive economic and business model crisis for local news.

Thousands of papers have shut down across the country. Nationally, we’ve seen about a 57% decline in the number of reporters over two decades. The number of weekly newspapers across New York State plunged from 439 in 2004 to 249 in 2019.  

This means fewer people covering the things that matter most to our communities: education, criminal justice, health care, housing, crime and other issues of grave concern. 

Right now there is a great bill before the New York State legislature that could help save community journalism called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, introduced by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Carrie Woerner, the primary sponsors of this legislation. 

This bill would provide tax credits to news organizations to retain or hire local reporters, photographers and editors at newspapers, news websites, radio stations and local TV news programs.

It’s a smart approach as it pegs the financial help to the number of local journalists. It will enable us to continue or grow our coverage of gun violence, education, healthcare, gentrification, arts, culture—and the inspiring people who make our community vibrant.

The legislation also has firewalls to prevent government officials from using this program to reward or punish particular news outlets. It’s structured similarly to the wildly successful tax credit to help the motion picture industry in New York.

This tax credit will make a difference and may help to keep the lights on in newsrooms across this state. We are on our way, and the key to democracy is a healthy press. We hope that Gov. Hochul and the legislative leaders see it that way too and will support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. 

This post was originally published on New York Amsterdam News.