More government aid to newspapers

March 12, 2009

The last time I mentioned the word “bailout” in connection with newspapers, I caught my fair share of flak from the conservative blogosphere for even entertaining the notion. I also caught a few rounds from Connecticut lawmakers who thought that I was suggesting their attempt to help secure tax breaks for struggling newspapers amounted to a bailout.

Having said that, it looks like Washington state is getting into the aid game as Hearst Corp weighs killing its Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

Here’s an Associated Press report about Washington’s state House of Representatives approving a temporary tax break for newspapers:

Supporters said they were hoping to both protect jobs and bolster an independent press, citing newspapers as an important watchdog of government and other powerful interests.

“We are starting to lose the ears and the eyes on government, on all kinds of things in our society,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

The House endorsed the bill Tuesday night by a vote of 91-5. It now moves on for consideration by the state Senate.

The bill would give newspapers and businesses that print newspapers a 40 percent cut in their state business tax through 2015. The discounted rate mirrors breaks given in years past to the Boeing Co. and the timber industry.

Maybe they could draft some legislation requiring people to buy at least one newspaper subscription a year. Now there’s a bailout plan.

(Photo: Reuters)

4 comments

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That’s like having a subsidy on people to manually do farm labor when there is farm machinery to do the work far more efficiently. Newspapers are dying, let them die, we’re let other things die. We need to logical rather than so emotional about economics – it’s a losing battle and leads to stupid decisions such as paying people a wage to pump my gas in NJ when I could have the cost even lower if I just could legally do it myself.

Posted by Justin | Report as abusive

Man, we really have some idiots running our country and of course a lot of idiots putting them there. If people want newspapers they will buy them. If not they get their news elsewhere. I don’t believe newspapers are the top format for news anymore. With so many places to get news on the web, it makes reading the paper a waste of a good tree. And most papers are not good watchdogs of government or powerful influence. They are quite the opposite. I say if they can’t stay afloat them let them fail. I sure don’t see anyone cutting my taxes as my finances are failing. My taxes went up! We need to be more intelligent when voting for officials.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

hey, jason – ….. where do you think those “many places on the internet” get their news? The majority of those places are aggregators or some guy blogging from his living room, who cut and paste stuff from the newspapers that do the original reporting. reporting that takes an investment of time and money, neither of which any blogger or aggregator is willing to put up – thus, they feed for free on the backs of other people’s hard work.i don’t think anyone in the newspaper industry believes that the printed paper is still in the cards for the future. the problem is that newspapers are giving away their product for free. Would you run a business that way???

Posted by geo | Report as abusive

Geo,I don’t think for a second the news sources I read online copy and paste their stories from newspapers. Some of them are the newspapers’ online sites. I would think it’s probably the other way around especially with international news. Bloggers that I comment on may copy and paste but I don’t look to bloggers for news but for opinion and debate. I can read an Israeli web news site and find out U.S. policy 3 days before we hear about it back here…. If we hear about it at all. And that’s put up by Israeli reporters and citizens who are probably not funded by the Seattle Times or N.Y. Times ( but perhaps American foreign policy pays it in the long run… just some humor..). I think that the issue raised with this blog is about giving a 40% state tax break to newspapers and businesses who print them because they are failing. That’s allowing the newspapers to “feed for free on the backs of other peoples hard work” for sure and puts a heavier reliance on the need for the state to borrow federal funds and commit to mandates that allow the federal government more control over states rights issues, to keep local government commitments going financed with federal debt. Selling advertising space probably generates the most income for a newspaper aside from it’s possible role as a part of other companies. And with less people buying newspapers I’m sure they’re selling less ad space. When we look up who runs these papers in Washington we see that privately, the Blethen family runs the Seattle Times and Hearst communications (New York) runs the Seattle Post – Intelligencer (sort of) while the Blethen Family controls the advertising, production, marketing, and circulation of both papers! The Blethen family actually runs 3 papers in Maine and 4 in Washington while Hearst has 16 daily and 49 weekley newspapers as well as interests in an additional 43 daily and 72 non-daily news papers owned by Media News Group which controls 200 magazines around the world and owns 28 television stations through Hearst-Argyle television. And these people need a 40% tax break on Washington’s states tax revenues for their newspapers and the businesses that print them to keep afloat? I hardly believe so. I don’t see very many “free” major newspapers around. If they were giving their product away for free then perhaps it would generate more “actual” readers and perhaps generate more interest in advertising sales. Hhhhmmmm.. I would wonder, could you really give the daily paper away for free and expect more people to show up to get one? If so, I wonder if it would be enough to offset the purchase price of a subscription or the news stand price and make these companies more self reliant and keep the states taxes coming into the budget rather than federal debt mandates…….Geo, you may be onto something……

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

[...] another one that you can loosely file under “Government aid to newspapers,” even though there’s no money that taxpayers would fork over to newspapers. Maryland [...]