Friday, March 27, 2009

Could Nonprofit Status Save Local Newspapers?

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md, introduced a bill on Tuesday designed to save struggling local newspapers -- allow them to choose tax-exempt status.
"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Cardin. "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."

1 comment:

Zack said...

I thought this was a great idea initially, since newspapers do provide an essential public service for the flourishing of democratic institutions, and the internet doesn't yet provide a viable alternative (I won't repeat Thomas Jefferson's lately oft-quoted "would you rather" about newspapers and governments). However, one of the major services newspapers perform is not only to inform but to offer opinions, editorials, and analysis that will sometimes take sides in political debates. Many people rely on their hometown newspaper to evaluate candidates for office, whether they vote with the paper or not. Therefore, I am wary of the clause in this proposed legislation that would bar the newly non-profit newspapers from endorsing political candidates or other activities forbidden by 501(c)3 status. Newspapers can hardly fulfill their role of holding government accountable if they are forbidden from endorsing or directly opposing a candidate or office-holder. Would the Watergate story have broken if Woodward and Bernstein were beholden to the preservation of the Washington Post's 501(c)3 status?