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A newspaper bailout
Should Obama be willing to look at a proposal to give newspapers tax breaks for becoming non-profits?
 

Maybe President Obama was just being nice, said Craig Crawford in CQ Politics, when he told newspaper editors over the weekend that he would be "happy to look" at proposals for a federal bailout of their industry. "The idea seems dicey, at best"—not just because of "the cost in these times of rising federal debt and the public's growing fatigue with bailouts." The bottom line is that "newspapers that owe their lives to the government are probably not worth having."

Obama's rationale for considering the idea, said Ed Morrissey in Hot Air, was that newspapers are serious institutions that shape useful policy debates while the blogosphere just encourages partisan shouting. Not only is that untrue, but "I seem to recall something in the Constitution" that explicitly made what the press does "none of the federal government’s business." The government should never have stuck its nose in the insurance and automaking industries, "but this is much more dangerous."

It's also pointless, said Michael Masnick in Techdirt. "There are plenty of 'real reporters' who do plenty of 'serious fact-checking' within the blog world too." The idea that newspapers need to be given preferential treatment over other sources of news reporting "is pure folly."

"It is no secret the newspaper industry is in trouble," said the Delaware County, Penn., Daily Times in an editorial, but the Newspaper Revitalization Act proposed by Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is not the answer. The bill would give tax breaks to newspapers that turn themselves into non-profit corporations, and in return they would have to stop endorsing candidates. Newspapers do have to adapt to survive online competition -- but "a truly free press requires freedom from political or government intervention even when that intervention is well intentioned."

It's nice to hear people at least talking about a future for print journalism, said Phil Bronstein in the San Francisco Chronicle. A future without profit is better than no future at all. "I'm for supporting journalism, even if it takes a vote in Congress to get there."

 

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