Illinois State Legislature Approves Funding for Local News

Through the state budget process, the Illinois legislature recently included several proposals to address growing news deserts and revive local news in the state.

Illinois newsrooms have seen a staggering 85 percent drop in the number of reporters since 2005, according to Northwestern University’s 2023 State of Local News report.

The state budget provisions include:

  • $25 million ($5 million over 5 years) in employment tax credits to newsrooms that hire or retain local reporters
  • $15,000 per current reporter and $25,000 per new hire for qualifying newsrooms
  • A $150,000 limit on how much a given newsroom can receive, a $250,000 limit for corporations.

The funding is available to both for-profit and nonprofit news organizations with at least one full-time local reporter.

“The financialization of news has deeply hampered the ability of communities across the country to receive accurate, informative news,” says Jon Schleuss, President of the NewsGuild-CWA. “We applaud the Illinois state legislature for utilizing the state budget process to implement innovative solutions to save local news jobs.”

The Illinois state legislature has also passed a bill aimed at greedy corporations and private equity groups. The bill requires that any newspaper in Illinois that intends to sell itself to an out-of-state entity must give the community and its employees 120-day notice, so that the community can consider organizing an acquisition bid.  This is the first “replanting” provision enacted into law in the United States.

“Requiring advance notice for sales protects employees and ensures communities are aware of changes that might affect their local news sources,” says Illinois State Senator Steve Stadelman, co-sponsor of the bill.

That same bill also includes first-of-its-kind language to establish the Journalism Student Scholarship Program to help support students who are pursuing careers in Illinois journalism through financial assistance. The bill has passed both state houses, but has yet to be signed by the governor.