The following is an open letter from the Center for Community Media at the CUNY Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many of us lost most of our advertising revenue from the local businesses in our communities. Dozens of us were forced to reduce or stop printing, or scale down our operations. Just in time, for those of us in New York City, a mayoral executive order came into effect, allocating a sorely needed $10 million in city government advertising to our outlets in 2020. That investment grew to more than $15 million in 2021.
So necessary was this cash infusion that in December 2020, 68 of us published an open letter in our pages, urging city and state legislators to make the executive order permanent law. And we were heard.
We vigorously applaud the New York City Council for taking the important step of passing a law in June 2021 to permanently commit at least 50 percent of all city government advertising dollars to community media, and to create New York’s first-ever Mayor’s Office of Ethnic and Community Media. With this move, New York City becomes the first in the country to permanently dedicate an existing and readily available source of public funding toward community media.
We urge New York State to follow suit. We encourage Governor Kathy Hochul to likewise commit to equity in advertising from New York State’s government agencies, as they seek to reach and serve all New Yorkers during this critical election year in an ongoing pandemic.
We are also eagerly following the progress of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, introduced last November in the New York State Senate and in the Assembly last December, which, if passed, will offer a newsroom payroll tax credit and a tax credit for subscriptions to local media outlets.
Like the City, the State will also find the community media a necessary partner in building a more engaged society.