Democrats at the Wisconsin Capitol want the state to help save local newsrooms.
Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, and Sen Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloint, introduced three pieces of legislation they hope will save local journalism.
The first would be a local journalism fellowship that would pay a handful of young reporters $40,000 to start their career in a local newsroom. The lawmakers are also pitching a 50% tax credit for newspaper subscriptions and a Wisconsin Civic Information Consortium.
“The Civic Information Consortium will boost local news coverage and civic engagement across the state, with a focus on addressing information gaps in communities long underserved by the commercial news market,” Spreitzer said. “A similar model in New Jersey has already allocated more than $6 million over just the past few years, uplifting Innovative new approaches to civic media and supporting news coverage in pockets of the state that have long been ignored by mainstream news beats.”
Anderson said there is a need for someone to do something to bolster local news in Wisconsin and across the country.
“Local news is dying. Over the past 20 years, a quarter of American newspapers have shuddered, and an average of two papers close down almost every week. Surviving newsrooms have been bought by venture capital firms and consolidated, often leading to massive layoffs. I think we saw just the past couple weeks there’s a report of even more layoffs at the LA Times for instance,” Anderson added. “As our news diets are becoming increasingly nationalized, televised and sensationalized, the way we engage with our politics has changed for the worse. The news we consume today leaves us feeling disaffected, powerless, angry, and often serves to enforce tribal loyalties. In fact, decreased access to local journalism has been associated with higher levels of partisanship polarization and other negative affects voter turnout.”
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association supports the plan because it would mainly benefit the state’s newspaper industry. Advocates with Free Press Action also support the proposal. Free Press Action has a history of pushing for more government involvement in the news industry and a history of opposing media companies and the free market approach to new journalism.
The plan in Wisconsin comes after Democrats in Illinois pitched a similar proposal in their state earlier this month.