Wednesday Apr 01 2009
By: Bud Pisarek, Loomis News Correspondent
Should newspaper restructure as non-profits?
It’s been 50 years, a half century, that I have been toiling in the newspaper business. Now, in the twilight of my years, I see my beloved avocation in dire straits. One newspaper after another has ceased publication and others have announced their futures are in trouble. The financial chaos is not limited to dailies alone. Weekly papers can’t keep up with higher costs, while declining readership causes concern. Two big dailies hit the dust in the past weeks. The Seattle, Washington daily and the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado became history. There are many theories floating around the industry why the Fourth Estate finds itself in this state of affairs. The double whammy is low advertising revenues and high production costs. Competition from TV advertising and bulk mail have hurt. Adding to the mix is diminished newspaper readership, which can’t be blamed entirely on labor costs or declining ad revenue. Somewhere along the line, in the past couple of decades, news coverage has suffered. In trying to match TV’s sensationalism, editor’s missed sticking to what they do best: reporting hard news. What can be done to salvage the print medium? One congressman has proposed legislation to probably solve the problem. Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, introduced a bill to help U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, The bill would allow newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks. Cardin labeled his bill the Newspaper Revitalization Act. Ad and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and contributions to support news coverage would be tax deductible. Backers of the bill feel there would be no substantial loss of revenue because newspaper profits have fallen in recent years. Cardin hopes to get some co-sponsorships to his bill and many additions and amendments can be expected as the bill progresses through legislative an industry channels. For me, it has been a wonderful ride, and I’m hoping newspapers will be around for another 50 years.