Ben Cardin. My senator, Ben Cardin. Good guy. Bad move.
Struggling newspapers should be allowed to operate as nonprofits similar to public broadcasting stations, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., proposed Tuesday.
Cardin introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status. They would no longer be able to make political endorsements, but could report on all issues including political campaigns.
Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage could be tax deductible.
Cardin said in a statement that the bill is aimed at preserving local newspapers, not large newspaper conglomerates.
"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Cardin. "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."
The newspaper is dying. It is dying due to its failure to innovate. It is also dying due to its inability to put the interests of its readers above its advertisers, not realizing that a milquetoast paper afraid to upset the apple cart will turn people off and lead to lowered ad revenues.
Senator, these papers don't need any additional help from the government. If they choose to go private and become foundations they may do so, but they do not need a single hand from the government to do so. They are not special. They don't rise to the level of the sort of industry - like finance or automotive - that at least has a semi-coherent argument as to why it needs special legislation.
Senator Cardin, you're a good guy, but this is a misguided waste of time.