United States Senator Benjamin Cardin today introduced legislation that would allow newspapers to become nonprofit organizations in what he described as "an effort to help the faltering [newspaper] industry survive."
The proposed Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow "newspapers for general circulation" to operate as nonprofits under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, similar to public broadcasting. Under the bill, newspaper nonprofits would not be allowed to make political endorsements, but would be allowed to report on all issues, including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax deductible.
According to Cardin's press release (finally
not yet available on his website?!):
The measure is targeted to preserve local newspapers serving communities and not large newspaper conglomerates. Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent years, no substantial loss of federal revenue is expected.
"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Senator 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.
"While we have lots of news sources, we rely on newspapers for in-depth reporting that follows important issues, records events and exposes misdeeds. In fact, most if not all sources of journalistic information - from radio to television to the Internet - gathers their news from newspaper reporters who cover the news on a daily basis and know their communities. It is in the interest of our nation and good governance that we ensure they survive."
But why limit the legislation to "newspapers" (i.e., news printed on paper with ink)? Shouldn't news organizations that publish online be granted the same benefits? After all, it's the journalism we want to save, not the printing presses, right?