Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Free Press Or A Saved Press?

We are all keenly aware the challenges the newspaper industry is facing. There appears to be no end in sight...or is there?

There was a bill introduced on Tuesday in the US Senate, so far with no co-sponsorship, that would in effect bail out newspapers that needed and wanted help. Essentially transforming any paper accepting assistance into a non-profit entity. I guess that's OK. Reading deeper into the Reuters article I was astounded to read the following:

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.


No more editorial board, no more op-ed page...say bye bye!

The message: we will help you and you will stay out of the fray of politics. Yes, they said endorsements but you have to believe the net will be cast wider than that. It puts spirited reporting at risk. No different than play-by-play announcers employed by the teams for which they broadcast games--if you see what I mean.

Remember the need for news hasn't died; the delivery and monetization model system has changed. Those who figure it out will survive and those who don't will fade away.

This is probably a long way from becoming reality, but chilling none the less. The Senator admits in may not be an optimal choice--so why make it a requirement? Does it matter the size of the paper? What paper would accept these terms?

Which is it? A free press--one free to endorse, report and investigate stories or a bailed out press tethered to government dictates, rules, and prohibitions?

Free speech shouldn't have a price tag.

You can read the entire article here.

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