In today’s Post, our fearless senator offers what he deems to be a plausible, sound solution to the agonizing decline of the daily print newspaper. As the editor of a print-only newspaper and a curmudgeonly ol’ crank of a conservative with serious delusions of romanticism, I am more than sympathetic, and seriously hope that we see a resurgence in print newspaper output, readership, and quality, whether it relies on or spurns the Internet. Thus, it was with open-minded interest I read Sen. Cardin’s opinion today, in which he defends his Newspaper Revitalization Act, under the auspices of which newspapers could “operate under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasters.”
How silly I was to give a Maryland Democrat serving in the great morass of amorality and state-philia! An excerpt:
Under this arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements but would be permitted to freely report on all issues, including political campaigns. They would be able to editorialize and take positions on issues affecting their communities. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax-deductible.
First, we have in our Senate someone so naïve as to think that curbing political endorsements would suffice to prevent de facto endorsements — of specific candidates, parties, or platform planks (“take positions on issues affect their communities” sounds awfully close, at least in some instances, to implicitly endorsing someone). Second, “tax-exempt” is just a libertarian-and-“public do-gooder”-friendly way of saying “bailout,” isn’t it? The journalists’ bailout has arrived!
The measure is targeted at local newspapers serving communities, not large newspaper conglomerates. There is little chance these conglomerates would find such an arrangement appealing because they depend on a revenue stream to remain operational. I want to make clear that this proposal would involve no infusion of federal taxpayer money. In fact, because newspaper profits have fallen in recent years, no substantial loss of federal revenue is expected.
As much as I possibly could get behind this bill, the anti-bigness populist streak in me certainly support this; however, the idea of letting government extend its hand deeper into the pants of the Fourth Estate terrifies me. The media consensus, far from being part of some vast, conspiratorial “liberal media,” is that of the status quo, of the Establishment. Ragtag local papers may, I willingly grant, be less inclined to accept the status quo, particularly at the federal level, given the physical distance separating Capitol Hill from Starke County, IN, but allowing local media to slip under the covers with Uncle Sam is just plain dirty.