Newspaper Bailout Seriously Considered

There is legislation in Congress to give newspapers a big break.

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While there have been serious proposals for a bailout of the ailing journalism industry, I never thought such a bailout would be taken seriously politically. I'm proved wrong by yesterday's news:

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"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.

I have no idea if this bill will go anyway, but if it does, it will basically be taking the model the federal government has used for the financial industry as of late and applying it to newspapers: We'll offer you money (in this case, generous tax subsidies) in exchange for a semi-nationalization of your business. For example, while operating as nonprofits, the newspapers wouldn't be able to make "political endorsements."  I don't know how a newspaper can have a credible editorial page without making political endorsements of some sort.

Does anyone think that those kinds of strings attached to reporting are going to make people pay more attention to newspapers? This is a perfect example of an area where if entrepreneurs wait around for the government to revitalize a failing industry, they will just be wasting time.

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