Not the way to save U.S. newspapers
U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland introduced a bill in March that he heralded as a way of saving newspapers, but something about it doesn't sit right with us.
Seems like not a week goes by that Americans don't hear about this or that big daily going down. The latest was the threat by The New York Times company to shut down The Boston Globe after the company failed to get the labor concessions it wanted. Papers in Baltimore, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver and other cities have either folded or filed for bankruptcy.
As a way of combating this, Cardin would allow newspapers to operate as non-profit companies, without being taxed on advertising income, which is most of any paper's revenue.
Of course, we're not going to argue against the idea of trying to help the newspaper industry or not taxing ad income. If newspapers continue to close and cut staffs, Americans will find it much more difficult to learn what's going on.
People treat news as free because they hear it on the radio and TV and see it on the internet, but take a closer look and listen to those stories. In many cases, if not most, the source of internet or radio reports is a newspaper. If the paper didn't exist or was forced to eliminate reporters, the story probably wouldn't be there at all.
It's obvious that TV and radio usually don't give the depth to a news item that even small newspapers try to do. It truly is in the public's interest to keep newspapers viable. Otherwise, the news will be filled with more propaganda from groups who can afford to get their story out and there will be less serious reporting going on.
Trouble is, non-profit status would restrict newspapers from taking sides on public issues or endorsing candidates if they choose. There would always be an axe hanging over the heads of newspaper people. If they anger the powers-that-be, they just might lose their non-profit status. And, make no mistake, it's very easy for journalists to anger politicians (and their supporters) simply by doing their jobs.
We appreciate Senator Cardin's concern, but his bill isn't really the way to insure freedom of the press. Maybe it will at least open the discussion about how to keep the news flowing.