3.24.2009

The New Newspaper Bill

Here's a new Congressional effort to stave off some of the heart break of recent high profile newspaper closures:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.


A bar on making political endorsements? That's a tough pill to swallow. 

While not all publications would choose this option and objective newsgathering might at least be saved in some regions, the proscription against making political endorsements (essential to non-profit status) seems to cut out one of the fundamental purposes of an American newspaper and a free press.

Here's the text of the bill as introduced (I have not had an opportunity to review it yet).