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That Was Fast

Recently, discussing the media in the comment section here, Lexington Green had this to say:

Brilliant Shirkey piece.  He only leaves out one thing.  The dying incumbents are going to successfully seek money and protection from the government.  With a Democrat president and congress, their faithful allies, lickspittles, bootlickers, toadies, buttboys, catamites, lackeys also knows as “the media” will come to DC with palm extended, upright, demanding the payment that their partisan loyalty has earned.  They will get protection and money. 
They will not survive that much longer as a result.

In the same thread, democratic core remarked:

The Shirky piece raises fascinating issues.  The question of what the new economic model for journalism will be is interesting, and I appreciate the fact that this piece raises the question explicitly.  Contrary to Lexington’s comment, I doubt that there will be a government bailout, as the First Amendment issues would seem to make that unpalatable to both parties.  The non-profit approach is one logical evolution, where “newspapers”, i.e., centers of journalistic activites, get absorbed into non-profit institutions such as think tanks or universities to provide content to organs of information dissemination.  Another model might be the C-span model, where profitable internet organizations such as Google fund the entities we used to call “newspapers” in order to provide content for the web.  Most likely, you could have some combination of the two, as for example in the way that profit-making organizations subsidize research activities by non-profit institutions such as universities.

Now we have this. A remarkable turn-around time:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – 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.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

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.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent years, “no substantial loss of federal revenue” was expected under the legislation, Cardin’s office said in a statement.

Cardin’s office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. His bill would also let a non-profit buy newspapers owned by a conglomerate.

“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.



12 Responses to “That Was Fast”

  1. T. Greer Says:

    And that is why I read all the comments here on ZP…

  2. zen Says:

    LOL! Gracias T.Greer – yeah, there’s an interesting and informed crowd here

  3. NYkrinDC Says:

    "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."

    It’s always puzzled me as to why newspapers would ever endorse candidates of any political party, since this is contrary to the spirit of what a newspaper should be, an objective source for news and information about our community, region, state, nation, and world. Then again, I’m also one of those people who thinks newspapers should have no columnist, op-eds, editorials of any kind since these constitute opinions, and opinions have no place in an objective source of information.

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    Glenn Reynolds put it best:  This bill will make the "faltering newspapers … nonpartisan — like NPR."
    Obama is resurrecting the USSR here in North America at lightning speed.  We are nationalizing the banks and auto industry, moving toward autarky and away from open trade, talking about having the government run the medical system, creating a government controlled, one-party news media, we already have a quasi-religious leader cult, we are penalizing enterprising people a/k/a "the rich", an overweight and aging and increasingly irrelevant military, and we even have a faltering war in Afghanistan as a foreign distraction.  Too bad there is no United States located somewhere over the sea left to bring Obama-land to knees and establish the global victory of democratic capitalism 

  5. zen Says:

    It’s not the USSR that I think the Obamaniacs aspire to be – though the comparison with the Brezhnev period might be useful as as an economic warning of decay – but a classical oligarchy familiar to the Greeks. Not an oligarchy based upon birth, ownership of land, wealth or even brains ( though you can find very bright people from rich, prominent, families who were in the Ivy League in this elite) but of a technocratic-liberal, ambitiously careerist, mindset and membership in a loose, transnational, social network of alumni of "good schools" and select UMC liberal activist organizations and MSM orgs.  Sort of an Oligarchy of Good Feelings 😉

  6. fester Says:

    NYKrinDc: That is a strange ideal that significantly deviates from newspapers’ roles in US history and more importantly the self-perception of roles.  For a good chunk of US history newspapers had an opinion and an angle, and they were fine with that.  Newspapers attempted to get the basics correct such as the Red Sox-Yankees score, but anything that required analysis usually was approached with an angle.  It was only the consolidation of the newspaper industry and the higher economies of scale due to increased capital intensity that newspapers around the turn of the 20th century attempted to go "impartial"

  7. zen Says:

    Personally, I prefer the overtly partisan or ideological model to phony pretensions to objectivity. Does anyone really think that The New York Times or FOXnews does not have a dominant ideological bias and an itch to be influential players?.
    What I think is going to go by the wayside regardless though, is the Pulitzerian frame in which news stories have been written in the last century. Newspapers in digital are going to be increasingly indistinguishable from blogs and magazine essays in style

  8. Lexington Green Says:

    The newspapers will not change, and there will be no enforcement, and everyone will get used to it.  Just like NPR, taxpayer supported news that supports one wing of one party.  Simple.  The taxpayers are chumps.  Just watch.
    The thing that killed newspapers was the inheritance tax.  When families owned newspapers, they had individual personalities.  Once they had to be organized on a corporate basis, they became a monoculture.  A.J. Liebling was writing about this in the early 1960s. 
    It is a model that deserves to die. 
    As to the transnational elite, you are absolutley right.  The leadership in this country, composed of graduates of elite schools who are in government, NGOs and large corporations, especially banks, are a monoculture.  They are a corporatist elite, sort of a downmarket version of the French ENArques, but with less sophisticated taste in wine and art.  The model is not really the USSR.  The model is contemporary China.  In China a small, self-selected, well-educated, sophisticated elite rules without any democratic check over a huge population that has no say in the government and does what it is told, where all major decisions are made these people in nicely appointed rooms where a nice, tasteful lunch is served, where businesses exist only by formal and informal ties to the government, where religion is pretty much illegal and abortion is pretty much mandatory. 

  9. NYkrinDC Says:


    I don’t disagree. Newspaper reporting has generally have tried to influence debate one way or the other (yellow press which racheted up the country for war against Spain being a salient example). For my part, I’d rather they did away with the opinion, pundit part and just focused on the cold hard news. However, as Mark illustrates in his comment above, many people do not consider objectivity in the news media to be achievable, and hence prefer to have the editorials, op-eds as a means to judge what partisan standpoint newspapers are coming from.

    In my opinion (ironic, since I’m talking about not wanting them, huh.. 🙂 ) I don’t like op-eds, etc, because they tend to skew the manner in which many people perceive the news. It allows people to question facts and alter them to suit their own agendas simply by claiming that said newspaper, or news organization is bias so the truth must be other than what they report. The far right, and far left are notorious for this. The far right, I think up until recently continued to believe that Saddam had a hand in 9/11 and deep ties to al Qaeda, and ignored, or lambasted any news from sources other than Fox News and Pajamas Media, as being either propaganda or naivete. The left did that with the GWOT, in terms of even denying that there was a Islamist threat to the US homeland, and argued that it was all a creation of Dick Cheney and G. W. Bush. The odd thing is that both sides always claim newspapers like the NY Times, WAPO are tools of the other, many times on the same stories reported. I’d rather have a news source I can look at for the facts, sans opinions. That’s why most of the time, I ignore editorials in the NY Times, WAPO, WSJ, etc. and read only the news reporting. I also try to avoid watching the pundits on TV, be they on CNN, FoxNews or MSNBC.

    In the absence of any reliable objective news source, I generally try to read as much as possible from as many news sources as I can, from al Jazeera to Pajamas Media.

  10. democratic core Says:

    Being only a bit facetious, the communist model isn’t really so bad.  I always thought that Soviet dissidents were the ideal consumers of the media.  They knew that the media had an agenda, so they looked at everything through that filter, and they were often able to glean valuable information as a result.  In this country, most media consumers unthinkingly accept the idea that the media is "objective" and they accept what the media gives them without analysis.  I find that if one approaches the media by first trying to figure out what agenda is being served, and then apply that filter, you can often get some valuable information.

  11. Lexington Green Says:

    "I find that if one approaches the media by first trying to figure out what agenda is being served, and then apply that filter, you can often get some valuable information."
    Well, that is good as far as it goes.  But what do you do when the media and the Democratic Party work a joint "black op", like they tried to do on George Bush, where Dan Rather was going to use a forged document on his TV show the same weekend the Donks were going to air a  TV ad with the song "Fortunate Son" attacking Bush as a chicken hawk?  Only the magical cloud of the blog-mind discerned the falsity in time to make it backfire.  What if that exposure was only the ONE we found out about, and in fact represents a single instance of a coordinated Party / Media disinformation and political propaganda campaign?  What if it actually makes more sense to think that collusion on that scale was probably part of well-established practice than a one time event?  What then?  Not a matter of "oh, those guys are slanted", it is a matter of "oh, those guys are actually an integral part of one of the teams, and fabricate and publish bogus facts to advance one of the teams when they can get away with it."  Hmmm.   The tear in the mask discloses, for an instant, the leprous face beneath. 

  12. Lexington Green Says:

    I stand proudly by this paranoid rant from 2004 on this topic:

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