A Jolt For Journalism: States Mull Tax Breaks For Papers That Hire Reporters

Massachusetts may join the parade of states that seek to stop the spread of news deserts by offering tax credits for hiring local reporters.

Two state legislators, Rep. Paul McMurtry (D) and Sen. Pavel Payano (D)., expect to offer recommendations by the end of  the year through a reset journalism commission, WBUR reports. Among the probable plans would be tax credits for publishers that add journalists to their payrolls. 

A prior state commission set up in 2018 never finished its work on this issue. 

"Unfortunately, the situation that we were hoping to address in 2018 has only gotten worse," said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University professor, during a hearing last week, according to WBUR. 

Kennedy added, “In Massachusetts, Gannett, the largest corporate newspaper chain, closed or merged about two dozen weekly papers two years ago, and replaced local news with irrelevant content from around the region."

This is occurring as the California State Senate passed SB 137 on Friday, providing a $500 million annual journalism fund.



Of course, there is controversy, for that fund would be created from a tax on large tech platforms like Meta and Google. Those firms are already fighting  the California Journalism Protection Act, which requires that those technology firms pay publishers for using their content in summaries and links. 

Some journalists also question whether their work should, in effect, be subsidized by states. 

New York State has led the way—in April, it passed a budget that included the Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs program, believed to be the nation’s first. 

The measure is designed to “strengthen local news coverage by creating a $30 million tax credit to hire and retain journalists for qualifying, independently owned print media or broadcasting entities, particularly those that have experienced workforce or circulation decline in the last five years,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D), co-sponsor of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

Moreover, the Illinois legislature has a bill on tap that would provide a $25,000 tax credit for each reporter on staff, and up to $30,000 for new journalistic hires.

Massachusetts lawmakers will be closely eyeing these developments. 

"We applaud lawmakers' efforts to revive the journalism commission, but the details do matter here, and it's crucial that lawmakers keep a core question in mind: will Massachusetts invest in a new, sustainable future for local news, one that's rooted in community need rather than corporate profit?" said Candace Clement, the managing director of nonprofit Free Press Action, WBUR continues. "Or will we simply prop up an ailing media system that has long failed to provide the kind of public service journalism that's most needed?"


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