I said earlier this year (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) that there was reason to believe that 2009 might be the year of the newspaper bailout. Now one of Maryland's two Democratic US senators thinks he has come up with a way to subsidize and save them -- while simultaneously turning them into house organs for his party. Ben Cardin (picture at right is from his Senate web site) has introduced "The Newspaper Revitalization Act," would accomplish the just-described goals by allowing papers to convert themselves into not-for-profit entities, providing them tax breaks, and .... prohibiting editorials. Those who know establishment media reporting know that editorial commentary will then become the sole province of left-leaning beat reporters pretending to be strictly fact-based in their supposedly straight news stories and "analyses," while traditional newspaper editorials, which against all odds still seem to lean barely to the right when averaged out nationwide, will disappear. Here's how Thomas Ferraro of Reuters describes what Cardin has cooked up:
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.
In the short run, Cardin's bill would give well-to-do Democratic activists, perhaps including many of the "private investors" Tim Geithner is looking at to buy up "toxic assets," a chance to fund the newspaper of their choice and turn it into a pet project for subtly and not so subtly promulgating their worldview. How about the New York MoveOn Times, or the Washington ACORN Post? Over a longer period, it seems to me that what would develop out of this would be any number of single-city NPRs that would attempt to control the tone of, and access to, political coverage in their respective locales. They would give perfunctory lip service to token print operations, while having large and unfair cost advantages over their taxpaying for-profit competitors. Readers might have other ideas as to what might come to pass if Cardin gets his way. So have at it, with this priceless exit excerpt, which happens to be the opening sentence of Editor & Publisher's coverage of the story:
Newspapers perform a public service for democracy and should be allowed to operate as tax-exempt non-profits, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D.-Md., proposed Tuesday.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.