DEAN RIDINGS COLUMN: The start of something big for local news. Congress must follow New York’s lead.

The state of New York, led by a powerful coalition of local publishers, has just approved game-changing legislation in the fight to preserve local news outlets and community journalism. By including a $90 million payroll tax credit for hiring and retaining local journalists in the state’s 2025 budget, New York has become the nation’s first to take such a major step to protecting this vital industry. This is a commitment to local journalism that the U.S. Congress should urgently build upon.

Dean Ridings

The Empire State’s legislation is built from the framework of the Community News and Small Business Support Act that would provide similar incentives at the federal level. Much like the New York program, the proposed tax credits would provide critically-needed sustainability for local news organizations, and would ensure that its local citizens continue to receive the news and information they need from credible sources.

As smaller publications shutter by the hundreds and news deserts across the country multiply, the decline of the local newspaper threatens civic engagement. A recent study found that just one in four Americans has access to a local daily newspaper — a dire reality that impacts voter participation, local corruption, policy debates and even affects bond ratings in the affected communities.

Yet local newspapers remain the prime driver of civic knowledge and engagement. The data is crystal clear — communities with robust local news ecosystems have higher voter turnout, better governance, coordinated emergency responses and more engaged citizens. Investing in local journalism pays exponential dividends for society.

How was the New York legislature able to pass such meaningful legislation? First, a strong coalition of local publishers came together to demonstrate the value their newspapers deliver to their communities. And, government leaders recognized the value of a vibrant local newspaper in their hometown and acted in a bipartisan manner to make a difference.

Now it’s time for Congress to follow the New York lead and take action to support the local media industry nationwide. The Community News and Small Business Support Act is a unique piece of legislation where everyone wins. Local businesses benefit from advertising credits and local citizens benefit by having professional reporters covering the most important topics impacting their lives. Incentivizing local outlets to hire and compensate reporters through tax credits is a fiscally smart way to support newsgathering and watchdog capacities without compromising editorial independence. The tax credits would provide a much-needed lifeline to local newspapers while also empowering new entrants and news startups aiming to revive media entrepreneurship.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have a prime opportunity to build on the momentum from New York by supporting the Community News and Small Business Support Act. Congress must recognize what New York’s leadership already has: Local journalism is a public good worth supporting. The time to act is now. For more information visit www.supportcommunitynews.com.

Dean Ridings is CEO of America’s Newspapers. On behalf of its approximately 1,500 newspaper and associate member companies, America’s Newspapers is committed to explaining, defending and advancing the vital role of newspapers in democracy and civil life. We put an emphasis on educating the public on all the ways newspapers contribute to building a community identity and the success of local businesses. Learn more at www.newspapers.org.