U.S. senator touts newspaper non-profit bill

March 24, 2009

Here’s 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 Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced a bill on Tuesday to allow newspapers to become non-profit organizations to help them survive.

Cardin points out that this wouldn’t help big chains facing bankruptcy, falling advertising revenue or some combination of the two. Instead, it’s designed to let the little guys — the community newspapers — survive, he says.


His Goal is to Help the Newspaper Industry Survive

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), today introduced legislation that would allow newspapers to become non-profit organizations in an effort to help the faltering industry survive.

In recent months, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, the Baltimore Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others, have either ceased daily publication or announced that they may have to stop publishing. A number of other publications, including newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, owners of The Baltimore Sun, have filed for bankruptcy or have had to institute severe cutbacks that have impacted news coverage.

The Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as non-profits, if they choose, under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasting. Under this arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements, but would be allowed to freely 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.

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.”

According to Barclays Capital, newspaper advertising revenue was down by about 25% for 2008, and circulation continues to steadily decline at most major newspapers as readers increasingly turn to alternative electronic news sources.

Senator Cardin added: “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.

(Photo: Reuters)


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I say NO WAY!

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

sounds about like the socialist agenda showing up again,reinstate the fairness act and eliminate right wing talk radio,and subsidize the left wing news papers.there is no way the democrats would allow the new york times fold,it is the democratic party news sheet.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

This is a backdoor way to preserve agenda of liberal left. The reason these newspapers failed not because they did not make money but people in general rejected the leftist agenda and became sick and tired of same ol,same ol.
Why don’t they ask Acorn, SEIU, Moveon, George Soro for help. I am sure they will be more than glad to help them out because of similar agenda and of course DEM could help them as they are their mouth piece and have helped them a lot over the years.

Posted by VJ | Report as abusive

Where are the Greens out to protect our forests? Just think of all the trees that will be saved.

Posted by gotham1883 | Report as abusive

Unbelievably lame.

Seriously, after all that the Media has done to this Country, to think that I would want them to survive is asinine. Stop the presses, shutter the doors, fire the editors and let’s all do this online or by word of mouth. It has a better chance of getting some truth out then these over paid, well pampered and incredibly uneducated media moguls.
If I could do anything more, myself, to insure the destruction of these “papers”, I would do it… gladly.

Posted by Randall | Report as abusive

Sounds like an attempt at liberal PORK. The dinosour is dead. Trains no longer have cabooses or firemen. Analog is gone ,replaced by digital. Grocery markers in the markets are gone and the list goes on and on. We really need to have all the incumbent politicians gone as well.

Posted by sprdthewrd | Report as abusive

Way to go, Ben!! After all, what would life be like if you didn’t have the full complement of liberal MSM (Mad-Dog Schizoid Media) attacking Sarah Palin’s daughter and other figures who might remotely be connected with conservative figures. Great use of our tax dollars!!

Posted by joules2009 | Report as abusive

Couldn’t agree more. I think while we’re at it, Fox News should be destroyed for consistently distorting the news. Rush Limbaugh too.

Posted by Ralphus Jericho | Report as abusive

Maryland senator wants to save the newspaper, legislatively…


Posted by ShortFormBlog | Report as abusive

Who cares if all the newspapers go under? Who needs ’em? There is already a very good method in place to get the news out — the internet — available in most US homes and in virtually every library.

Freedom of speech is essential, but the method of speech can change over time. In the colonial days, we had town criers. Later, pamphleteers. In the last century we had newsreels. Time marches on. If people want to buy newspapers, they will. If not, the papers will go out of business.

The best news service is whichever one people want — and to be free speech, it must be truly free from government involvement.

Posted by Independent | Report as abusive

Just like NPR….let the government support the liberal newspapers and radio. NO WAY IS RIGHT!!! And did everyone see the article about the Dem Congress wants the 400 dollar tax cuts gone in 2010 for the middle class and also the Bush tax cuts that expire in 2010. BO is mum right now but he’s going to have to concede to congress if he wants his budget. He is a puppet and that’s all he is. Tax revolt is coming now.

Posted by Catinaz | Report as abusive

Yes, indeed, the newspapers will be like National Public Radio. Not at all liberals that sell out to the democrats. God help us.

Posted by tony diavatis | Report as abusive

This is breathtakingly scary. Of course we all get our news on the web. But it was placed there and written primarily by the press.

And if the left is joyous that the right is muzzled, just wait. The left will just get lefter until none of us can protest. Even Paul Krug, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, and Tom Friedman will be muzzled. They will see everything that was America go away and they will enjoy the fruits of their labor under the tyrannical regime that they so heartily promoted.

I am already sick of the wholesale destruction of the Constitution and the free market that these people have instituted. And I am truly frightened that there will be no opposition party to elect in two years.

I am NOT a right wing wacko. I have voted both red and blue over the years, and this is not the change most Americans voted for. But from this day forward, I will never vote for the socialist party again. Period.

Posted by donald lais | Report as abusive

What I don’t understand is the idea that we should let newspapers die and the “Internet” will pick up the slack. Regardless of political affiliation (assuming that they have them), news organizations exist because there is an idea that someone has to pay people like me to report and write news all day long. The same is true for the Internet, TV, radio or a newspaper. Citizen journalism is fine, but if you’re a truck driver or a hedge fund owner, and you want to report news too, you’re going to be doing it in your spare time. That’s not a good way to run a news outlet that has to be active 24 hours a day.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Hold on here people!! There is not one mention of government funds going to these newspapers, it’s merely allowing them (“if they choose”) to operate as a non-profit.
There are plenty of conservative papers out there that are struggling to stay afloat as well as liberal ones. This isn’t about “saving the liberal media” it’s about saving an industry and peoples jobs. There are several papers in Maine currently for sale because they can’t turn a profit. Despite the internet news explosion there are a lot of folks who rely on a local newspaper for local news about their community.
For all you NPR haters-it’s still more balanced that Faux News. There is very little punditry on NPR, their financial reporting is dead on and they still have investigative reporting, something that all cable news channels have all but done away with.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

It seems to me that people could start up new local news sites on the web. Not that hard to do with some of the software that is available.

Posted by cute feet | Report as abusive

As long as we’re not giving money directly to news agencies and they will not be allowed to fundraise in the traditional sense I think this is a great idea. News has become increasingly commercialized as the options for news have skyrocketed over the past decade or so. Newspapers are being forced into buyouts in order to just keep printing and corporate news stations such as MSNBC, Fox and CNN are taking over as our main source of information. If these companies did not have to rely on heavy advertising in order to survive, perhaps our news would be less bias and sensational and would be able to boost readership.

To all you crazies claiming this is somehow “socialism” you need to read up on your political theory. Here in the real world, socialism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Allowing newspapers to operate as non-profits in no way makes them government agents and as long as their 1st Amendment right to freedom of the press is protected, this can only have positive outcomes.

Posted by Ben M. | Report as abusive

Cute Feet: I never said it was hard to start a local news site on the web. Even my mother could do it, and she’s no PhD in Internet tech. I’m talking about hiring people to do the journalism all day long. That costs money, regardless of distribution.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Him what pays de piper call de tune.

Posted by charles akins | Report as abusive

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Just thought you should know…

Posted by polyphemos | Report as abusive

I’m a conservative who believes that economic enterprises should be free of government interference. In this case the feds would be eliminating a constraint on business not imposing one. I’m sensitive to the fact that public radio and tv have beem hijacked by the liberals. But since non profits could not directly endorse political candidates that would be a slight improvement over the current situation. As a conservative who loves his country – in its original democratic, constitutional form – I think the “non profit” bill is good for America.

Posted by Brave warrior | Report as abusive

Let’s not forget that most news sites on the web are ‘aggregators;’ meaning they get news articles from newspapers or radio-TV stations, and offer what those sources have already run. If we allow those same news news sources to cut further, everybody suffers. Absent a better economic model than advertising-subcription to pay the bill, maybe the media should work more closely with substantive aggregators to run what they do unchanged in exchange for a shared yearly fee. That would undoubdtedly mean fewer sources of news, but it would at least salvage a necessary component to our democracy. The congressman’s plan to help is a very welcome change, but I would be very wary of the ban on political endorsements. In this state, endorsements point to the hidden agenda of political figures, and that is too worthwhile a consideration for voters.

Posted by Lloyd | Report as abusive

I’m a small business owner (Internet, Web and Computer Services) with other family members and employees. We have learned to change in order to stay competitive. Even though we started as one of the first dialup providers in 1996, we have had to constantly evolve and learn new skills, with NO help from anyone but our perseverance. Our local paper actually competes with us, offering web hosting, web design, online marketing. If they are offered tax exempt status, what happens to our competitive edge as a small business that has always been on the technological forefront at our own costs? Local newspapers in our county also see us as a competitor since they are attempting to break into the Internet and web markets, and thus have chosen to blackball our business whenever possible from the news. Maybe this is only in our county but I fear it’s in a lot of small towns. I am opposed to the proposed bill.

Posted by Monica Zimmerman | Report as abusive

This is moronic. Lets be clear THIS DOES require taxpayer money. IF SOMEONE STOPS PAYING TAXES IT HAS THE SAME EFFECT ON THE DEFICIT AS GIVING THEM MONEY. If someone doesn’t pay $100 into the kitty, or somebody takes out $100 dollars, the net effect on savings is the same. Further as is stated by the senator, newspapers would suffer in either a strong or weak economy. The internet is making them obsolete, why is that such a bad thing? We do not provide government support to the horse and buggy industry, the tape cassette/betamax industry or the commodore 64 (you know the old computer I am talking about) because they became obsolete. We have a deficit we need to shrink not expand. Why not save the trees and let the local journals go online, if there is a demand for the service capitalism will find a way to monetize it ONLINE. Write your congressman tell them to focus our taxpayer dollars on something of importance as opposed to this nonsense.

Posted by Insanity | Report as abusive

If the newspapers printed news honestly and without bias many people myself included would still be having the paper delivered everyday.
They took sides on many issues not trateing both sides equally or fairly. They deserve to perish as most fools do.
If congess does anything to perpeuate this foolishness then congress shoould perish also.
If an company, orinization or institution cannot be fair and honest then there is no reason for itsa existance

Posted by Pennamale | Report as abusive

This is a good idea, and I do not know why it takes a special law, since non profit newspapers already exist.

But as to lost tax revenues: It would be better to keep newspaper employees employed and paying taxes, and suppliers of equipment and other supplies making money and paying taxes, than to lose the newspapers. A nonprofit often pays taxes other than income taxes, such as real estate taxes. Do not know if all states make nonprofits exempt form sales taxes, if they have sales taxes.

Locality is an important issue,a s well as having a sense of community, instead of only getting the national stuff in papers like USA Today.

Posted by Mark John Hunter, Alpena | Report as abusive

Someone earlier said it best, “Him what pays de piper call de tune.” This is straight out of the nazi propaganda book. The incumbant party makes the changes to allow a broken business model to stay in business; who do you think they are going to support? There is no way that this is unbiased is my concern. Who will be policing whether or not they are or are not supporting specific candidates and what is the penalty for non-compliance? Also, don’t employees of NFP’s not pay taxes on their income? Additionally, it will allow for “donations” that are tax deductable (well, semi-deductable after the obamunist is done) rather than investments. Since liberals don’t (on the whole) give money to charities, this will give them a perfect place to donate money. It’s truly disgusting.

Posted by keltor | Report as abusive

[…] describes a number of new non-profit journalism ventures, such as The Voice of San Diego.  Reuters reports that two weeks ago US Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced legislation allowing newspapers to become […]

Posted by The Transformation of Media and Lessons for the Non-Profit World | Working Wikily | Report as abusive

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment–the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion…

. . . It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder and the printing press. Now the links between the nations first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.

And so it is to the printing press–to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news–that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.”

-John F. Kennedy
excerpt from ‘The President and the Press’

P.S. I am not political. I just think these words are very relevant to the issue of informing the public. I also have “complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.”

Posted by jwgrantjr | Report as abusive