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Ideas Emerge to Close the Local News Gap in the Rivertowns

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March 8, 2024

By Barrett Seaman–

The January announcement of the closure of three local Westchester newspapers, including the Rivertowns Enterprise, has sparked concerns throughout the county about the disappearance of local news sources. More than a month later, those concerns continue to reverberate.

A February 1st Zoom conference organized by Qiqo, a new online site that hosts events and offers organizational and marketing tools for businesses, including news outlets, drew some 300 people and lasted almost two hours. As a result, groups in several affected communities emerged to launch discussions aimed at either reviving or replacing the now-defunct papers, all of which were owned by Deborah White, who attended but did not participate in the forum.

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Lucas Cioffi and his wife, Sandra Nam, founders of Qiqo, have scheduled a second Zoom forum for Wednesday, March 13th in an effort to advance some of the emerging ideas aimed at filling the gap left specifically by the closure of the Rivertowns Enterprise.

Qiqo (for Quality In/Quality Out) also held a press conference on March 7 in Hastings to galvanize support for adoption of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (S.625B and A.2958C in the State Senate and Assembly respectively). In advance of the press conference, which was essentially a rally for both the legislation and the news organizations it is intended to help, Cioffi circulated a petition in support of the legislation and urged attendees to share it with as many New Yorkers as possible. To see the petition click on (

The bill, if passed, would offer payroll tax credits for news outlets of a certain size. That would provide an incentive to hire back reporters laid off due to the crumbling, advertising-dependent economic model used by most commercial news organizations. It would, however, be of limited value to news outlets (including The Hudson Independent) that have transitioned from profit to non-profit status and thereby have no taxable profits to offset.

Speaking in support of the bill and cheerleading for the various efforts to revive local news were State Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nicola (“Niki”) Armacost.

Shimsky acknowledged that “for many years now, most local news [outlets] have been hanging on by their fingernails. Costs have gone up. circulation has gone down. You need to pay the people who report the news. This is a real serious problem.” Given the urgency of the issue locally, Shimsky urged a rapid response, noting that to have a timely effect, the legislation should be part of Albany’s 2024-25 budget, currently under consideration.

Feiner called the loss of local press “a threat to our democracy,” adding, “We need scrutiny of local government” to prevent wasting taxpayer dollars and corruption. Local papers, he said, typically spur more citizen participation in local government. “We need competitive elections.”

Several attendees with experience in local media spoke as well. Zach Richner, who described himself as a third-generation newspaperman, oversees the Empire State Local News Coalition, encompassing 150 print and online news organizations throughout the state. “Local news is in crisis,” he said, “and I don’t think that’s hyperbole.”  A quarter of all New York counties, he said, are currently “news deserts,” meaning they have no local press coverage at all.

Adam Stone, publisher of five “Examiner” newspapers in Westchester and Putnam Counties, acknowledged that while his papers were still operating, “We are a shell of our former self.” With layoffs forced by shrinking revenues and rising costs, he said, “we are not able to fulfill our mission —There are meetings we can’t get to, school sports events we can’t cover.”

Despite the grim picture he painted, Stone, as well as others at the meeting, expressed optimism, which Stone said was based on “the developing energy we have here today.”

Some of that energy, generated specifically in the rivertowns, could be evident in the March 13 Zoom conference, where several proposals to fill the gap left by the closure of the Rivertowns Enterprise will be scrutinized.

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