A bill by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., would let newspapers choose a tax-exempt status similar to public broadcasting stations.I don't think treating newspapers like charity cases will enhance respect for the industry. Hat tip: email
Under the arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements, but would be allowed to freely report on all issues, including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax-deductible.
"We are losing our newspaper industry," Cardin said. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."
In recent months, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, the Baltimore Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others, have either ceased daily publication or announced that they may have to stop publishing.
A number of other publications, including newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, owners of The Baltimore Sun, have filed for bankruptcy or have had to institute severe cutbacks.
"While we have lots of news sources, we rely on newspapers for in-depth reporting that follows important issues, records events and exposes misdeeds," Cardin said.
According to Barclays Capital, newspaper advertising revenue was down by about 25 percent for 2008, and circulation continues to steadily decline at most major newspapers as readers increasingly turn to alternative electronic news sources.
"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," Cardin said.
Reports of layoffs and furloughs at newspapers around the country have become common in recent months.