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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Newspaper Revitalization Act: A Nice Term for Bailout?

Today, I read an article and saw the above video about Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin’s new bill called the Newspaper Revitalization Act. The bill proposes allowing newspapers to restructure as non-profits. They would be held to a new standard, however, and would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Apparently, according to the article, “advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible . . .

Cardin's office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. His bill would also let a non-profit buy newspapers owned by a conglomerate.

‘We are losing our newspaper industry,’ Cardin said. ‘The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.’”

The article caught my eye because my friend recently lost his job at the local newspaper. He has a few weeks to figure out what to do but, he knew it was inevitable.

Is this really a good idea? I have a few questions, concerns, and comments:

• Many local newspapers don’t have much to offer outside of coupons and pictures of our kids at the local sporting events. When our kids end up in the paper, we get a call from organizations preying on our parental pride trying to sell us framed pages of the article for 60 bucks. If that’s what the bill protects, I couldn’t care less.
• Does anyone really read the paper anymore for good news? I mean, sure, it feels good in your hands with a cup of coffee but does it really cause us to think?
• Might this be the opportunity for the free enterprise system to do it’s thing and allow everyone to overcome, adapt, and survive?
• Journalism has been weak in the local newspaper business for years. No one wants to rock the boat because sales suck. The best news is found faster and easier on the internet. Won’t this further perpetuate the problem of sucky journalism?
• Many local newspapers print news I read on a blog two weeks prior. Enough. Gutenberg would be Google’s CEO today.
• In the “old days” the thing that made a newspaper great was the good ol’ free speech element. What will the non-profit status do to that constitutional right?
• One really scary part of the bill would allow private contributions to the papers to be tax-deductible and/or advertising to be tax-deductible. What? Are you kidding me? Would this not give incentive for every wealthy activist to invest in their local news to promote their propaganda AND receive tax benefits?
• Many complain that the Main Stream Media is controlled by the far left. Without agreeing or disagreeing, if that is true, wouldn’t a move like this limit the free speech of the right even further?
• It seems to me that good product raises awareness and surfaces its own need. Outside of technology adaptation awareness, shouldn’t failing newspapers take a hint and start creating good product? Doesn’t this perpetuate lazy journalism?

What do you think?

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