NYNPA produces two regular electronic newsletters: "In a New York Minute" is NYNPA's weekly e-newsletter containing NYNPA, member, and industry news, while the "NYNPA News Media Literacy/NIE News" is a monthly e-newsletter containing news related to the NYNPA and New York Newspapers Foundation's initiatives related to News Media Literacy and Newspapers In Education.
For Association news, see below.
September 15, 2022
Looking Toward 2023 in the New York State Legislature
The 2023 Legislative session will feature continuing risks from environmental, labor, tech and tax issues, but could also include state-level legislation to support local news organizations and to strengthen open government laws. Although the Legislature is not scheduled to convene until January, work on the state budget, which contains the majority of serious legislative initiatives, will begin in the coming weeks.
First, the risks.
The Extended Producer Responsibility proposal, which would require businesses which sell products containing plastic, glass and paper to pay the full costs of municipal recycling programs fell out of the state budget in late March due to opposition from the Assembly. The proposals put forth by Gov. Hochul and the Senate both exempted newspapers, magazines and books. Near the end of the 2022 legislative session, the Assembly introduced a very different piece of legislation aimed primarily at phasing out use of plastic packaging within about a decade, but requiring businesses using packaging to shoulder the cost of disposal in the meantime. The Assembly legislation would not have addressed materials used in the products themselves, and so would not have had an effect on paper, but would impose costs for use of plastic delivery bags, and would require the phased elimination of any use of non-compostable bags. We expect both bills to be reintroduced when session resumes in January, but with a new wrinkle – Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sponsored the bill and agreed to exempt newspapers and magazines, did not run for reelection and the fate of the exemption will likely depend on the views of the new chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
As the state’s financial situation turns negative as a result of stock market volatility (New York derives significant revenues from income taxes on Wall Street salaries and bonuses) and the end of federal pandemic funding, we can expect to see the resurrection of pre-COVID proposals to raise tax revenues from other sources, including taxes on companies which gather and use personal data. We may also see a return to pressure on the Governor and Legislature to scale back or eliminate requirements that local governments publish notices in newspapers. That said, some Cuomo-era laws which suspended competitive bidding on public works projects will sunset in the next two years and this may present an opportunity to advocate for a return to public notification of impending public works projects.
Although Congress has been at the forefront of high-profile discussion of legislation to rein in the market power of big tech platforms, the real potential for enactment of legislation is on the state level. Proponents of anti-trust and data privacy bills in the state legislature envision their proposals as national pace-setters. With a great deal of support from the News Media Alliance and industry experts, we have provided the state Legislature with feedback and guidance on anti-trust and data privacy proposals, and expect to continue to do so in 2023.
Following the mass shooting at a Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, and then a US Supreme Court decision striking down New York’s law regulating concealed carry gun permits, the Governor signed legislation to restrict the purchase of body armor to law enforcement and military personnel, and to enable government agencies to evaluate gun permit applicants’ use of social media, to require social media platforms to provide a process for reporting hate speech and to authorize the state Attorney General to investigate hate speech on social media The Governor’s staff were receptive to our concerns that the body armor law would deprive journalists of the right to wear safety equipment, and developed a process by which we could request an exemption. On behalf of NYNPA, I filed for the exemption in July and will monitor the regulatory process as it continues.
Awaiting delivery to the Governor’s desk is a bill which passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously which would criminalize the publication of videos of violent crimes in a manner that would cause emotional suffering to a victim or their family members. We worked with a coalition of media organizations to oppose or at least amend the bill, but received no support from the Legislature. The bill was introduced in response to the brutal murder of a young woman in Utica by her boyfriend, who then posted video of the killing on the internet, and sympathy for the young woman’s family overrode any concerns about First Amendment issues. I believe the Legislature will continue to scale back the freedom to post objectionable or upsetting materials on the internet.
The Clean Slate proposal to allow for the sealing of virtually all criminal records after a period of time also fell out of the budget in the final negotiations, although it was supported by the business community as well as criminal justice reform advocates. The bill sponsors made some changes in response to concerns expressed by school officials, but I believe the bill will pass in 2023.
The Open Meetings Law provision which did make it into the final budget bill authorizes state and local government bodies to use videoconferencing as a component of public meetings, but only if a quorum of the public body is present in person at a public location and the process is voted upon by the public body and set forth in a detailed public document. The in-person requirement can be suspended during a state of emergency. The new legislation expires on July 1, 2024. Governor Hochul's senior staff sought out our input in drafting the language and were responsive to our advocacy on behalf of the needs of journalists in covering meetings.
We have also been working with Reinvent Albany and the Empire Center to craft legislation that would update and strengthen the Freedom of Information Law and will continue to look for opportunities to support that initiative. We have been in discussions with the coalition to Rebuild Local News and the Newspaper Guild about the legislation that was introduced last fall at our request to provide a payroll tax credit to support employment of journalists. The bill is sponsored by Assm. Carrie Woerner and Sen. Brad Hoylman. The legislation is based upon the federal Local Journalism Sustainability Act and a payroll tax credit that fell out of the August budget reconciliation bill.
While I expect Governor Hochul to be elected to a full term, and that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, voter concerns about crime and inflation could benefit the GOP in some suburban swing districts. A more politically moderate Senate might result in moderation of some labor and environmental proposals. The state’s financial position will also dictate the legislative agenda and shape the Governor’s January budget proposal.
August 3, 2022
NewsTrain event in Rochester focuses on engagement, data reporting and storytelling techniques
Journalists and students seeking training on community engagement, database reporting, Freedom of Information law or better storytelling are welcome at the News Leaders Association’s Rochester NewsTrain event Sept. 23-24.
The event takes place at the Rochester Institute of Technology Inn and Conference Center and is hosted by the Democrat and Chronicle.
Register at the early-bird rate of $75 through Aug. 23 at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rochester-newstrain-tickets-201258899787
After Aug. 23, registration increases to $95. Registration includes a light breakfast and lunch on both days. Group registration for groups of 10 or more from one organization is $70 per person. For this, email firstname.lastname@example.org A number of diversity scholarships are available as well.
To apply for this scholarship, do so here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfcBZMOEOZjkPjQDWGwBQP2136l-Q4flHtHgDjcUjaZu3DHjA/viewform
Among the sessions at Rochester NewsTrain:
Persons should not attend NewsTrain if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or if you are exposed on or after Sept. 16 to a person with a confirmed case. The RIT Inn and Conference Center is offering NewsTrain participants a nightly rate of $109, plus tax. By Sept. 1, reserve by calling the hotel front desk at 484-359-1800 and saying you are participating in NewsTrain or visit the website at www.ritinn.com.
June 13, 2022
Crime and public safety are garnering more headlines across the country. Law enforcement and racial disparities in the criminal justice system are under increasing scrutiny. Newspapers play a key role in examining the dynamics in their own communities.
But what’s happened to police logs, the most basic of public safety reporting? Where are the regular records of traffic citations, thefts, property damage, burglaries and much more?
Police logs easily generated the most calls during my tenure as editor. Traffic citations probably topped the list. Nobody likes being linked to a police report – whether it’s something as common as speeding or a citation that carries greater stigma, such as a DWI.
We regularly connected with local law enforcement. We routinely reviewed all initial complaint reports. The documentation was part of the menu of public records that readers expected to see in our newspaper.
We also believed the information was valuable to readers in terms of public safety. Is a neighborhood experiencing a rash of vandalism? Are DWIs on the rise? Should residents be on the lookout for another scam artist? Are certain crosswalks particularly dangerous? Has a neighborhood become a haven for narcotics? Is there a pattern to a rash of business burglaries?
No doubt, traffic citations are among the most worrisome and embarrassing to the violators. A youth is afraid he’ll lose his job. A teacher is concerned how she can explain a speeding ticket to students. An elderly woman is flustered by her first-ever ticket. A coach dreads facing his players after getting ticketed for a DWI.
Adding to the frustration – and often anger – of the accused is the lag time between when a ticket is issued and when the court disposes of a case. The delay can be weeks, or even months, depending on circumstances.
We believed both reports were newsworthy. For example, police might break up a neighborhood disturbance and issue several tickets. The community should be apprised immediately. It’s equally newsworthy to follow a case to see what penalties are assessed.
With the increased level of crime across the country, it’s discouraging to see many newspapers put fewer resources – or, at minimum, less effort – into monitoring police logs. For those reports that are published, one must ask in many instances: What’s the value?
Some newspapers simply copy and paste an agency’s computer printout. It may provide a glimpse of a department’s activity – but little else. No names. No addresses. The reasons for a call are nondescript: driving complaint, narcotics, domestic, traffic stop, noise, suspicious. No indication if arrests were made.
Some newspapers will translate the logs into their own reports, but the vagueness is alarming. A bike theft on Bush Street. A local business reports a padlock broken and items stolen. An employee theft on the 14000 block of Dellwood Drive. Again, what’s the value?
Most glaring is the anonymity of the reports – the lack of the five Ws and H of basic journalism. Reports are meaningless and do nothing to alerting a neighborhood, a community to public safety issues.
Law enforcement undoubtedly is spoon feeding information, selectively deciding what they believe is in the best interests of the public. They give little attention to the fact that most of the nuts and bolts of police reports – names, addresses, specifics of call – is classified as public by law. Their rationale? Adhering to their own rules makes their jobs easier; they won’t get the angry phone calls asking why they released the information to the newspaper.
Even more discouraging is that many editors apparently share a similar sentiment. They don’t press for substantive details. Their rationale? Let’s keep the reports vague and not rile readers.
The dangers to this lack of aggressive reporting are obvious.
First, computer logs likely are transmitted electronically with little or no contact with anyone at the newspaper. Reporters do not develop any relationship with folks at the cop shop. They miss the opportunity to pick up and follow up on spot news, in-depth reports, feature stories and other substantive content for the newspaper.
Second, law enforcement will soon consider it standard operating procedure: Give the newspaper as scant reports as possible. That unfortunately is what many departments are taught. I well recall an officer in my hometown who became the primary contact on our daily rounds. He had just returned from training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va. His marching orders were very clear, as he was proud to tell us: Give the newspaper only the information he believed should be shared. We regularly challenged him, reminded him what the law dictated, and we eventually got the information – but it was an ongoing struggle.
Readers frequently asked that a public record be withheld. It might be a marriage license, divorce proceeding or ambulance run, but tickets were most commonly the concern. Some reasons were had more merit than others.
In the end though, each person was seeking special treatment. Each was asking the impossible because our policy was that we could not pick and choose. Going down that path would place us in the position of being judge and jury – to determine that one person’s plea was more worthy than another’s. And we’d never know all the facts.
The simplest and fairest policy is to treat all public records as just that – public – in the belief that openness serves the greater number of people over the greatest period of time. At its foundation, police logs provide a pulse of public safety in a community.
Jim Pumarlo is former editor of the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle. He writes, speaks and provides training on community newsroom success strategies. He is author of “Journalism Primer: A Guide to Community News Coverage,” “Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Coverage” and “Bad News and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive Issues in Small-Town Newspapers.” He can be reached at www.pumarlo.com and welcomes comments and questions at email@example.com.
March 24, 2022
In a major win for court transparency in a New York appellate court, the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic recently secured the release of the transcript of an improperly closed attorney disqualification hearing that had taken place in Genesee County Family Court. The decision affirms the principle that family court proceedings are presumptively open to the press and the public.
The Clinic first sought access to the transcript nearly two years ago after local news outlet The Batavian was denied access to the family court to cover the disqualification hearing of a prosecuting attorney, who was a newly elected judge. The family court then denied The Batavian’s motion to intervene and obtain the transcript based on its view that the underlying family court neglect proceedings were confidential.
In reversing the lower court’s decision, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department reaffirmed that New York courts, “both civil and criminal, are presumptively open to the public” and that “[t]his fundamental [presumption] of public access to judicial proceedings extends equally to matters heard in Family Court.”
The Appellate Court also took issue with the lower court’s determination that the disqualification motion was no longer newsworthy simply because the prosecuting attorney who was the subject of the hearing had already been elected to a judgeship by the time the motion was heard. The Court found that the family court “improperly ignored both the continued importance of appellant’s role in reporting accusations of ethical violations or conflicts of interest on the part of a judge and the principle that, here, it was within the province of [the news outlet] to determine whether the hearing on the disqualification motion remained newsworthy.”
“I couldn’t be happier with this decision,” said Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian.
“We are thrilled by the complete victory for our client,” said Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic student Ashley Stamegna, who delivered the oral argument to the Fourth Department in December. “Without judicial transparency we cannot ensure that justice is being done in our courts of law. The Fourth Department’s opinion reaffirms the New York courts’ commitment to providing the transparency that both the law and the public require.”
Clinic Director Mark Jackson said, “The decision affirms in clear terms two essential principles: first, a court can’t simply shut off a particular court, here family court, from access to the public and the press, as a matter of law. Second, the determination of what is ‘newsworthy’ belongs squarely with editors, not judges.”
“I’m grateful to the Cornell First Amendment Clinic for taking up this case,” said Owens. “Mark Jackson and Heather Murray recognized the principles involved in this case and all of the students—notably Ashley Stamegna—who did the hard work of researching case law, writing briefs, and presenting arguments, were dedicated to the First Amendment issues at stake.”
The Cornell First Amendment Clinic team at the appellate level included lead attorney Heather Murray, Mark Jackson, Jared Carter and students Timothy Birchfield, Christopher Johnson, and Ashley Stamegna. Murray and Cortelyou Kenney argued at the lower court with summer fellow Samuel Aber assisting with briefing.
June 25, 2021
The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence knew what they were getting into. As we celebrate 245 years later with flags and fireworks on July 4, it’s easy to forget these patriots risked death to give a new nation life.
If you’ve never read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, this is a good time to do that. More than two centuries later, it’s still a good read. These rebels, who would be accused of treason by Great Britain, wrote the document in a reasoned manner, attempting to convey to the world that their cause was a just one.
At its most basic, it’s a demand for a divorce, with one party explaining why this marriage can’t be saved. What’s fascinating, though, is how the list of complaints about the king of England not only cited justification for the break-up, but also telegraphed the principles the new nation would insist upon in establishing its own governance.
The entire document was a bold statement, speaking truth to power. As it established its own future, this new nation would have to find a way to guarantee free speech, particularly in regard to criticizing government.
The Declaration of Independence lists more than two dozen examples of why the king “was unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” The new United States of America would need to create a check on those who abused their power. That would come from a free press.
Much of the Declaration is devoted to examples of the king ignoring the colonies’ needs and maintaining a stranglehold on new legislation to address those needs. Clearly, the United States would have to guarantee petition and assembly.
Memorably, the Declaration states that all men are endowed by their “Creator” with certain “unalienable rights.” This was an acknowledgement of a higher power without a specific reference to any religion. This new nation would go on to guarantee freedom of faith. Freedom of speech, press, and religion. The rights of petition and assembly.
Today, we see all five nestled together in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It took a war for independence and 17 years, but those aspirations became the cornerstone for a young and vibrant country.
Fast forward to the 21st century. A new survey of citizens around the globe by legal public-policy center Justitia has assessed how citizens in 33 countries feel about freedom of speech. It found that most citizens in most countries feel free speech is important and positive, but they waver when presented with scenarios in which free speech offends others or hampers society.
In order, Norway, Denmark, the U.S., and Sweden top the list: Citizens of these nations say they are steadfast in their support of free speech. At the bottom of the list: Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt, and Pakistan.
In a telling passage, Justitia quotes free-speech expert and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger as saying the U.S. is “the most speech-protective of any nation on earth, now or throughout history.” The report also notes that a 2015 Pew research study determined no nation in the world was more supportive of free speech and a free press than the U.S.
At our best — and not without lapses — we walk that talk.
In 1776, our founders published a Declaration of Independence, but also a declaration of intent. Those early Americans sought “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by creating a nation founded on freedom. But those freedoms must never be taken for granted, and our collective vigilance is essential.
On the most American of holidays, let’s be sure to celebrate the most American of freedoms.
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Ken Paulson is director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University and former dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU. Paulson has spent much of his career as a journalist, educator and advocate for First Amendment values. Contact the Free Speech Center via email at FreeSpeechCenter@mtsu.edu
Click here or on the image below to access First Amendment ads from the Free Speech Center to “Celebrate the 1st on the 4th”
May 5, 2021
Partnering with local media companies, site is reaching well over one million unique visitors monthly
LocalEatsandEssentials.com, an online platform to order food from locally owned, non-chain restaurants, has brought on eight local media companies as partners – with a combined audience reach of more than one million monthly readers via more than two dozen print titles, websites and social media pages.
The Clifton Park–based company now is operating in locations from Central New York to the Catskills and into the Berkshires in Massachusetts through these media partnerships. The latest media companies to come aboard include Oswego County News Now, The Mountain Eagle, Newspapers of New England and the Catskill Mountain Region Guide magazine.
Several other media companies currently are in various stages of onboarding with the program, and they have indicated the program is beneficial to their future plans to fund local journalism. Current partners rave about the ability to rapidly begin this program in their markets. As one publisher stated: “It’s not reinventing the wheel; the program already exists and is successful.”
The past year has been incredibly challenging for restaurants. The lockdown has forced many to close their doors (some permanently). “Restaurants need our support right now, and this new program will help those who live in these communities to show their support by going online and ordering take-out from their favorite restaurants,” said Mark Vinciguerra, Local Eats & Essential partner. “This program is unique because unlike other expensive online ordering programs, Local Eats is entirely free for the restaurant.”
Local Eats & Essentials helps promote the program to local consumers using print, social and digital advertising and a marketing program that supports local journalism – in collaboration with its media partners. “We are thrilled to be part of this program and are always looking for new ways to support local restaurants and local businesses in our community. We’re looking forward to making it easier for restaurants in our community to get more online orders without paying the big fees,” said Doug La Rocque, publisher of Eastwick Press, one of the media companies involved. “We feel partnering with Local Eats & Essentials provides the e-commerce platform our Facebook page can use, and the mission of supporting local restaurants and journalism is a major benefit as well.” Local
Eats & Essentials partners encourage communities to support the program and their local restaurants. To learn more and to order take-out, go to www.localeatsandessentials.com.
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About Local Eats & Essentials: Local Eats & Essentials is an online takeout service that makes it easy to order from more than one restaurant in your community at a time. The program is free for restaurants, and customers pay a nominal local restaurant support fee (between $1 and $5) depending on the size of their orders. For more information, visit www.localeatsandessentials.com.
April 15, 2021
The Journalists Association of New York, a nonprofit organization that advocates for radio, television and print journalists from dozens of news media organizations and colleges throughout New York state, is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to immediately cease his recent practice of closing all of his public appearances to the press.
This practice is an affront to the public that the governor serves; that public is represented by journalists when they are covering the activities of elected officials.
Since allegations of sexual misconduct became public in late February, the governor has held numerous public events in which he has made announcements around the state, but he has refused to allow journalists to attend any of them. The effect has been that the governor has not had to answer questions from journalists in person.
The governor has cited COVID-19 restrictions as reason for many, but not all, of these events being closed to the press. Most have been held in large facilities or outdoors where social distancing protocols could easily be followed by journalists, just as they were by the invited guests who have attended. We are taken aback that New York journalists who have been on the front lines covering COVID-19 for a year and cover communities across the state have seen their access curtailed.
In addition, COVID-19 case levels are much lower than where they were in the spring and fall of 2020, when the governor still held in-person press conferences and most public events were open to the news media. With vaccinations now available to all New York adults, most journalists also are now vaccinated, providing an additional layer of protection.
The governor's attempts to assuage journalists' concerns about this lack of access by holding occasional conference calls are woefully inadequate. The number of questions reporters can ask during these calls is severely limited, the governor or his staff choose the reporters given the opportunity to ask the questions, and there is typically no opportunity for follow-up questions.
These restricted-access events are a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars in an attempt to bolster the governor's image while at the same time attacking the public's right to know about the activities of government, a right that is exercised by the news media when covering the governor's public events in person. No governor should refuse to provide this basic level of access and transparency.
Journalists Association of New York Board of Directors:
March 11, 2021
The newspapers of New York State are deeply concerned about the financial and Constitutional issues raised by this legislation. As currently drafted, the bill would curtail the availability of accurate news in many areas of the state and invite litigation to defend against government actions that would suppress distribution of news via newspapers. This legislation also unfairly forces newspapers to share the costs incurred by single stream municipal recycling programs and the negative effect of comingled plastic on the market for recovered paper.
The legislation would incentivize urban and suburban newspapers to shut down their presses, converting entirely to digital delivery. Pressroom jobs would be eliminated.
For these reasons, we urge Senator Kaminsky and Assm. Englebright to amend their legislation to exempt newspapers and magazines, and to pursue other avenues to revitalize the markets for recyclable and compostable materials that previously existed.
New York News Publishers Association, Inc.