One of the main topics of discussion when Kenton Ngo and I made an appearance on The Inside Scoop was the fate of the newspaper industry. I argued that the newspaper industry is important and that an effort should be made to keep newsrooms thriving because it spurs investigative reporting that can help to educate the public about complicated policy subjects and what is currently taking place in our public institutions. With the advancement of the internet and the poor economy impacting advertising proceeds, however, it appears as though keeping newspapers alive is becoming a difficult task.
It appears as though at least one Senator sees a way to help the newspaper industry as Maryland's Sen. Ben Cardin has introduced S.673, the Newspaper Revitalization Act, which would allow local and community newspapers to become non profit organizations. This move would allow tax deductible donations to be made to the papers as well as having some cost savings as a result of the papers not having to pay taxes on advertising and circulation revenue. As a result of becoming a non profit organization, however, the newspapers wouldn't be allowed to make political endorsements.
I believe the most important thing to note about this legislation is that it would only apply to local and community newspapers, which means that it wouldn't necessarily be used to bailout large corporate media chains. When you consider that it is many local and community papers that do the coverage of local government and keep the public informed about local events, I think it can become clear that they are providing a public service that is greatly beneficial to communities. If the non profit status allows a few extra reporters to stay on to research local issues or investigate potential corruption in city halls, then the move would most definitely be worthwhile.
On the other hand, there are a few negatives that could potentially be brought up with this proposal. First off, if an elected official or community leader didn't like something the newspaper published then I could see the leader potentially trying to take away the paper's non profit status. I don't think this would be widespread, but there is some potential for abuse there. Depending on who is making large donations to the newspaper, there might be some public debate about the objectivity of the paper -- although there are already a lot of people on all sides of the aisle who are already taking part in this debate surrounding the media.
With all that being said, what do people think? Is this a good idea? Is it something that we should be looking at right now? Should it be expanded to include all newspapers? Would it actually make any difference?