Nonprofit Newspapers? No Thanks

We briefly touched on Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin’s proposal to allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status earlier this week, but thought the topic deserved further attention. So, to recap:

On the 24th, Cardin introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to operate as a nonprofit. He says the bill is aimed at preserving local newspapers, not large newspaper conglomerates.
From the AP: “Cardin said his proposal may not be the best choice for some major newspapers, but “should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat.”

Under this proposal, newspapers wouldn’t be able to endorse politicians, but they would still be able to cover races.

Some are objecting strongly to this plan.

Kevin O’Brien
at the Cleveland Plain Dealer (among others) rejects the proposal:

It would be far better if newspaper people managed the transition to something new by themselves. Rather than falling into the arms of government, we need to struggle to find our own new ideas.

A newspaper that pays its own way might threaten to sue the county commissioners to get hold of information the public should have, as ours just did. Would a newspaper worried about donors’ feelings and reliant on favorable tax laws be so bold, or have pockets deep enough to see a lawsuit through?

The deep pockets issue is kind of a moot point now, as it doesn’t seem that any newspapers have pockets of any depth right now. And the Beeb is well-respected as a reliable and trustworthy source of news. But does that mean we want our media to go that route? Maybe not…but maybe we have no choice.