By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: New Jersey Civic Information Consortium

Wisconsin legislators consider three measures aimed at bolstering local news

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Photo (cc) 2012 by Teemu008.

Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin are considering three pieces of legislation to bolster local news that are borrowed from California, New Jersey and a federal proposal that hit a dead end several years ago. Erin McGroarty of The Cap Times breaks down the Local Journalism Package:

• One bill would fund 25 journalists to be placed in local newsrooms across the state. The reporting fellows would be chosen by University of Wisconsin journalism professors and outside experts, and would be paid a $40,000 salary for a year. This bears some resemblance to a program at UC Berkeley, where a $25 million appropriation is paying for reporting fellows to work at news organizations that cover underserved communities for five years.

• A proposed Wisconsin Civic Information Consortium would award grants aimed at “addressing communities’ information needs, bolstering media literacy and civic engagement, and supporting access to high-quality, consistent local journalism, especially among underserved communities.” The bill appears to be based on the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, which has awarded some $5.5 million to support 81 news and information projects over the past several years.

• Wisconsin residents would be able to claim a tax credit for up to $250 in annual subscription fees to local news outlets. Several years ago such a provision was part of a federal bill that also included tax credits for local advertisers and for publishers who hired and retained journalists. That bill went nowhere, but Congress is currently considering a new version that includes the advertiser and publishers credits but not the subscriber credits.

All in all, the Wisconsin measures are modest steps that could help ease the local news crisis, although they are no substitute for the hard work of news entrepreneurs on the ground. With Congress seemingly unable to do much of anything constructive, it’s encouraging to see some leadership at the state level.

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Catching up on some stories about local news that you might have missed

I don’t do this very often, but there are a number of important stories in local journalism that are flying by, and I want to put down a marker. No need to go into detail — just click on the links to find out more.

  • California sets aside $25 million in government money to support local journalism.
    • The move follows the creation of the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, which this year will distribute $3 million for specific projects such as a plan to expand news coverage across Jersey City; an online radio program in Creole for the Haitian community; and an oral history on efforts to clean up drinking water in Newark.
    • Unlike New Jersey, the California initiative will be used to pay reporting fellows from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to cover under-represented communities.
  • The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would set aside antitrust law to allow news organizations to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook for compensation, was dealt a huge setback.
    • U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, succeeded in adding an amendment that would make it more difficult for news organizations to moderate comments. The lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., responded by withdrawing the legislation but said she’ll be back.
    • LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers and a number of organizations came out in opposition to the proposal, calling it “ill-advised” and “enormously problematic.” A similar law in Australia has been criticized for lining the pockets of large publishers — mainly Rupert Murdoch — while doing little for smaller players.
  • Google News Showcase, touted as a source of revenue for news outlets whose content would be featured, has been stalled because the giant platform has been unable to reach agreements with several key publishers.
    • Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper chain, was offered $6 million a year to feature journalism from its flagship USA Today  as well as its local papers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Gannett’s reported counter-demand: $300 million.
  • Speaking of Gannett, a nauseating development has surfaced in a sexual-abuse lawsuit against the company’s Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, New York.
    • According to the independent Rochester Beacon, the company is arguing that seven former newspaper carriers who say they were molested by a supervisor should have filed for workers’ compensation at the time the alleged abuse took place.
    • The carriers were 11 and 12 years old at the time of the alleged incidents.

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