ALBANY — Senator Rachel May, D-53, introduced the “New York Local News Act,” which would establish a system for supporting innovation in delivering local news and civic information in New York. This would be done 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.
“The decline of local news sources has left our residents and communities without access to critical information,” said May. “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.”
May said local media organizations are a valuable source of information for citizens all over New York and in the past 15 years, 25% 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, May said.
The coronavirus pandemic provides an important example of the need for more local media, she added, saying 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, May said. “Local media also plays an important role in our democracy. 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,” she added.
The bill would help New Yorkers be more informed on the most pressing issues facing their communities, May said, adding that 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.
By working with universities and local communities, this bill provides targeted help for communities and underserved populations that need help the most.