Could local tax revenue help fund community journalism?

Media consultant Simon Galperin wants to create a system whereby local communities could use tax revenue to create a news and information entity called a Community Information Cooperative. The idea is that a fee levied on residents—similar to fees for fire services, water, sanitation, etc.—would allow a community to essentially self-fund their own local reporters. Galperin has set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2,000 to create a non-profit entity that would put the idea into action. He recently wrote at CJR about how this might work in his hometown:

My hometown of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, has a population of 32,000 people. An annual $40 contribution per household could deliver a $500,000 operating budget to a newsroom devoted to understanding and serving the local news and information needs of its community. That budget could support print or online newspapers, or livestreaming town council meetings. A special service district for local journalism could convene community forums or media literacy classes, launch a text message and email alert system, or pay for chatbots that answer locally relevant questions, like “Is alternate side parking in effect?”

News co-ops that might help to fill the growing gap in local news coverage is an intriguing idea, but forcing people to chip in via their taxes would be a tough sell—supporting the fire department so your house doesn’t burn down is a bit different than supporting a local news outlet. And if it wasn’t mandatory, would enough people want to commit their tax revenues to such a venture?

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Mathew Ingram is CJR’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in the Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.