The U.S. Congress’s Joint Economic Committee hit one of my favorite topics on Thursday: What the government could, should, must (or must not) do to help the struggling news media survive, with the spotlight on newspapers in particular.
I had a look at the testimony and found some fascinating thoughts in the testimony from Paul Starr, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Starr has some ideas for how the government might preserve a free press by extending a hand to the news business — all without using that word that no one wants to use: bailout.
First, the background: Newspapers are in trouble as the Internet destroys their advertising revenue. More people than ever read the news online, and news websites are trying to figure out a way to make money off that because letting people in for free just kills the circulation of their printed products. Some folks have raised the idea of federal, state or local subsidies to help papers — usually in the form of tax breaks — but the Newspaper Association and others say it’s a bad idea because the press shouldn’t be beholden to the government that it’s supposed to be monitoring for abuse, fraud, etc.
Meanwhile, the Obama White House, Justice Department and other federal offices are examining the situation. In Congress, one bill would let some newspapers become nonprofit companies, and another bill that would let businesses book their recent losses over the past five years – something that would get them some extra cash from the taxman.
The association was one of the groups that testified at the hearing. We know how they feel. What I’m INCREDIBLY eager to get your thoughts on is what Starr wrote: