Sunday, September 20, 2009

A printed version of PBS and NPR ...

... is what the newspapers will look like if this happens.

Obama open to newspaper bailout bill

The president said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

"I haven't seen detailed proposals yet, but I'll be happy to look at them," Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin's Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).…

"I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding," [Obama] said.
That reference to fact-checking sounds like a joke, considering the way the mainstream press has treated the Van Jones story, and, indeed, Obama himself. Where are his college transcripts? What did he study at Columbia? Have we heard anything from Tony Rezko lately? Many more questions, unanswered and never asked.

Both of those Senators are from Baltimore. Their sponsorship makes sense to anyone who has picked up a copy of the Baltimore Sun lately. The paper of Mencken has become a shadow of what it was a few years ago. It used to be as fat as the Washington Post. Now it's thinner than the Washington Times, and has less content. I remember when there were two Sunpapers, the Sun in the morning and the Evening Sun in, naturally, the evening. The Evening Sun set on September 15, 1995. The idea of saving the paper by restructuring it as a nonprofit is mentioned in Baltimore Magazine's current issue: Stop the Presses. The article places the blame for the paper's declining revenue on, guess what, the Internet. David Simon, the genius who created "The Wire," suggests charging subscription fees for access to online content. Nowhere in the Baltimore Magazine article is it mentioned that the Sun is a far-left paper. Maybe people just don't want to read the content that they are offering. If that's the case then trying to charge for it on line would simply be a repeat of the Times Select experience.(Baltimore Magazine, by the way, seems to be doing fine. It's fat and glossy and loaded with advertising. Maybe the newspaper could learn something from the magazine.)

But getting away from Baltimore: Tax breaks? Would all non-profit newspapers receive the same tax breaks? What government agency would determine which newspapers would receive which tax breaks? Would Cass Sunstein, who favors policing the Web for "falsehoods," be involved? As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, it seems only natural that he would be.

Government is already in the auto business and in banking. The press, next? The profit motive has never looked better.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Update: Kim Priestap has something to say about this, at Wizbang.

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