The Washington Post has an article from Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) summarizing his proposed Newspaper Revitalization Act.
Drawing statistics from the Pew Research Center’s report on the year in news, the senator found metropolitan paper run roughly 70 stories per day with a mix of news from national, local and business sections. Television news cycles run 10 to 12 stories and generally draw their reports from the newspapers—though television news casts are typically shorter than newspaper articles. Further, in his guestimation, newspaper reporters forge relationships with people, building a network, which creates avenues to information. All of this leads him to the same conclusion Jefferson had centuries ago; newspapers are vital to democracy.
Today, newspapers do that job; all other outlets — TV, radio, blogs —feed off that base. My bill would allow newspapers —if they choose —to operate under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasters.
In summation the bill would not cost taxpayers, it would simply allow local newspapers (not hulking conglomerates) to operate under a non-profit status like public television stations.
While I’m all for saving local newspapers, some of the logic behind Senator Cardin’s arguments seems a little anachronistic. It’s not newspapers that are vital so much as it is original reporting we need to preserve. Ventures like the one recently launched by the Huffington Post seem just as worthwhile as the Newspaper Revitalization Act; perhaps even more so as it is allowing for new potential growth both monetarily and technologically. While this situation is certainly not an either or—we’re happy to see news sustained by any business model possible—the bill itself seems fairly narrow in its assistance. Honestly how many local newspapers are there these days that arenâ€™t, at least in some part, owned by a larger conglomerate? In essence this seems like a fairly minor step to rectify a massive issue.