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Legislation designed to support local Illinois media advances

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(The Center Square) – Legislation moving through the Illinois Statehouse aims to reverse the spread of news deserts in the state.

A Local Journalism Task Force found that Illinois has lost 232 newspapers since 2005. The state has also lost 85% of its newspaper journalists, the highest percentage in the country.

The Strengthening Community Media Act is moving through the legislature. The bill as amended would create a student journalism scholarship program. If enacted, the legislation also prevents local news organizations from being purchased by out-of-state companies unless there is a written 120-day notice before the sale occurs.

State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said too often, large organizations buy up local media outlets to the surprise of local communities.

“You have private equity firms buying newspapers, consolidating them, then providing very little local news content, laying off a lot of local reporters and eventually shutting them down,” said Stadlman.

Earlier this year, Stadelman, a former TV anchor, said the biggest issue that newsrooms are facing is that the advertising revenue stream has gone to big tech companies, which has left local news outlets with a large financial burden. A separate measure he proposed, Senate Bill 3591, to require social media companies pay local news outlets when someone shares their stories on a different platform has not advanced.

Senate Bill 3592 with the journalism scholarship program and written notice of sale provisions did advanced out of the Senate Executive Committee by a 9 to 2 vote and can now be taken up by the full Senate before going to the House for further action.