Thursday, March 26, 2009

Saving newspapers by turning them in to non-profits?

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that there is a new U.S. bill seeking to rescue faltering newspapers by giving them the option to reclassify themselves as non-profit entities, rather than for-profit businesses.

[image source:]

There's no question that traditional print media, especially print dailies, are teetering on the edge of extinction (I maintain a regular RIP Traditional Media watch as part of my Twitter feed) - but this particular remedy raises a disturbing question.

If the bill were to pass (and it's important to note that the bill doesn't currently have any sponsors beyond its author Senator Benjamin Cardin (D) MD), any paper that opted in to non-profit stats would still be free to report on political campaigns, but they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Papers that cover politics provide both in-depth reporting, as well as a summary of that reporting in the form of endorsements. In my experience, voters often rely on both to help them research the often complicated, confusing, and voluminous detail underlying the choices before them.

Endorsements have become as much a part of the political process as any other media tool. Without them, we risk devaluing political journalism in a fundamental sense.

Even if we save the newspapers, we may be slowly destroying the news.


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