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Senator Proposes Nonprofit Status For Newspapers

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-making-any-anyway dept.

The Media 426

The AP is reporting that a senator has introduced legislation that would allow struggling newspapers to operate as nonprofits, similar to the way public broadcasting works. "[Sen. Benjamin] Cardin [D-Md.] 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. ... The head of the newspaper industry's trade group called the bill a positive step."

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Shortly to be followed by.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358635)

the music industry cartel, then a decade later, the movie cartel?

Re:Shortly to be followed by.... (2, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358747)

We've actually had that for a while now. [nea.gov]

Someone just forgot to tell the suits that they couldn't really commoditize culture without some serious problems creeping in.

What a good idea (1, Interesting)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358645)

A somewhat more balanced media is in everyone's interest.

Re:What a good idea (-1, Offtopic)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358677)

Woot my first first post after only 9 years on Slashdot!

Re:What a good idea (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358693)

You can go back to not posting.

Thanks,
Anonymous Coward.

Re:What a good idea (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358731)

>>>A somewhat more balanced media is in everyone's interest.

Yes it is, but "balanced reporting" is a myth. The reporters allow their own biases to sneak-into the articles. Not on purpose of course, but just as a natural consequence of being human. For example if you asked me to report on the Democratic Convention, it would probably be very negative since I don't like big-government parties. Vice-versa if I did a Libertarian Convention article, it would probably end up being a fluff piece. It's just natural bias.

I prefer reporters be honest about their views, even if those views are slanted, rather than pretend to be unbiased, which is a falsehood. Nobody is unbiased.

 

Re:What a good idea (5, Insightful)

bravo369 (853579) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358969)

I don't think balanced reporting is a myth, it just doesn't seem to exist anymore. It's supposed to be a news column, not an editorial. To use your example about reporting on the Democratic convention, why would it be so hard to report who was there, sequence of events, and what the person said. whether you agree with it or not shouldn't play any part in doing your job as a news reporter. What one side considers a joke the other side considers an insult..example being the 'lipstick on a pig' comment during the election. The quote should be in the NEWS article and the editorial should give the viewpoint that it was insulting or whatever they want to say. and yes it can be a natural bias that creeps through but then shouldn't the editor be demanding the reporters stick to the facts. if not then what good are they.

Re:What a good idea (4, Insightful)

Sigismundo (192183) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359191)

I think that bias creeps in most often in the form of omission. To continue with the Democratic convention, for example, someone who supports the Democratic party may choose not to report so much on the protesters outside the venue, or place this coverage closer to the end of the article. Newspaper articles are limited in length, so only the "most significant" information makes it in. Often the selection of what is important (by the reporter or his editor) allows for bias to creep in, however unintentionally.

Re:What a good idea (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359001)

The thing is, if you give up trying to be unbiased, you get Fox News.

Even if it is a mostly unattainable goal, it's better to try and deliver an unbiased product.

I do admit, it'd be nice if a reporter would be open about their bias right from the start. The nice thing about the web (if any papers transitioned to it correctly, which, of course, none have) is that you could make that sort of information available in a reporters bio. Trusting your news source is important; nobody has time to fact check all their news.

Re:What a good idea (4, Funny)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359177)

The thing is, if you give up trying to be unbiased, you get Fox News.

Or the Economist. Bias is OK as long as you acknowledge it - does Fox still claim to be fair and balanced?

Re:What a good idea (1)

CubeCubed (1517255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359185)

The thing is, if you give up trying to be unbiased, you get Fox News.

Since when was Fox News ever trying to be unbiased? If they are they must be failing pretty hard, because it's just as biased as any other cable news network. Bringing on board a bunch of wimpy DINOs and then pairing them up with Republicans who shout over them, is hardly trying to be unbiased.

Re:What a good idea (4, Insightful)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359305)

The thing is, if you give up trying to be unbiased, you get Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC, or Pravda.

Fixed that for you. Bias doesn't just swing to the right. A major complaint of a lot of people is that most of the media bias seems to be to the left.

Re:What a good idea (1, Flamebait)

M1rth (790840) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359167)

No shit.

If you've ever listened to NPR, they're further left than the rabid frothing Keith Olbermann.

That's what you get for your tax dollars, folks - something that's not even CLOSE to honest or middle of the road.

Re:What a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359169)

Got it.

Can't win, don't try.

Re:What a good idea (2, Insightful)

Bartab (233395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358789)

I know that the path to a "somewhat more balanced media" rides right though my local newspaper collapsing and falling into oblivion. Of course, I'm speaking of the San Francisco Chronicle, and they are collapsing.

Re:What a good idea (1)

beattie (594287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358803)

Yea, maybe. But this doesn't do that. Newspapers will still be able to be biased in which stories they print. This is a dumb idea.

Re:What a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358831)

How is saving a bunch of liberal fish wrap newspapers "a more balanced media"?

Re:What a good idea (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359073)

It removes them from the control of vested interests who would have them drum up artificial hysteria about trivial things rather than report the news.

Balanced media (4, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358841)

The newspapers are not making money now, so having their advertising and subscription revenues tax exempt won't matter. The big difference would be they'd be able to get tax deductible donations.

Why do you think soliciting donations will make the media more balanced? As the mayor of Corruptville, I of course realize that we need balanced reporting in our fair town. I will even donate some of my embezzled funds towards that end - as long as the newspaper doesn't tell anybody about my embezzlement.

Re:Balanced media (4, Interesting)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359061)

To be fair, though, the one major example I have of donation supported media (National Public Radio) is remarkably balanced, especially in it its coverage of the ongoing economic troubles. At the very least they've not been more unbalanced in any direction than privately funded media.

Re:Balanced media (4, Informative)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359153)

NPR is national, so it is relatively easy to keep tabs on and has to cater to a large and diverse audience to keep in the donations.

A local newspaper is a lot smaller, and will only attract donations from rich people in that town - so it has a much more pronounced bias in its donors.

Re:Balanced media (1)

mpthompson (457482) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359273)

Exactly. I'm glad others are modding your comment as insightful. Turning newspapers into charities is just begging for corruption.

Re:What a good idea (2, Insightful)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358945)

How will this make the media "more balanced?"

Non-profit status for newspapers (that now can't have a political view) is simply a tax on newspapers that do. This seems like a limit on free speech along the lines of the fairness doctrine.

This is further complicated by the fact that no journalist seems to believe that they are capable of bias.

Re:What a good idea (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359325)

A somewhat more balanced media is in everyone's interest.

And this would produce that how?

There is little reason to suspect that tax-exempt status affects bias in any organization. Churches, which have been tax-exempt forever are notorious for bias (and not just to the right), as just one example.

Being unable to endorse a candidate does not constitute "balanced media" - it's easy enough to unbalance things by carefully choosing what you report, and how.

On the face of it... (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358649)

You know, that's not a terrible idea. Although it's probably not true, on the face of it non-profit new sources inherently seem less prone to pressure from vested interests.

Mandated not-for-profit media sources make for better reporting: discuss.

Re:On the face of it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358721)

The problem is the government gets to decide if they are violating their non-profit status. The pressure then comes from the government. With the government expanding and the private sector dwindling, I think it would be scarier to have the media slaves to the government than to their advertisers.

Re:On the face of it... (3, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358767)

The problem is, the vast majority of newspapers are owned by giant conglomerates. Gannett and McClatchy just going to say, "Oh hey, lets dissolve!"? Don't think the CEO's with their 7 figure salaries are gonna get behind that one.

Anyway, even the papers that are already non-profit are taking it in the ass. Look at St. Pete. The industry has to successfully make a revenue transition from 1 medium to another without going bankrupt in the process, and it doesn't help that the web sucks for revenue. Look at all these huge, popular web 2.0 services that still haven't found a way to make a profit. The Ad revenue pie is the same size, but way too many people want a piece, and you don't get that natural geographic advantage that newspapers have traditionally enjoyed.

Re:On the face of it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358865)

Anybody in the Seattle area knows that non-profit radio is indeed biased and there is no reason to believe that a non-profit newspaper wouldn't be also. The local NPR radio is owned and operated by Microsoft. Rule number one of any non-profit is do not piss off the local billionaire(s) so no stories critical of MS. These new proposals would only make non-profit newspapers the unofficial organs of the local power interests.

Yes, And After That Cursory Approval? (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359093)

The so-called "fourth estate" is still irrelevant.

You've *still* got media access tightly controlled in most government.

You've heard of National Public Radio right? They are non-profit get their content from the same sources, report it with about the same amount of complicity as any other news source.

Note, I am not laying all blame on newspapers. The consumer is happily paying for half-truths, advertising disguised as news, and 'man bites dog' stories.

This is another corporate welfare project.

1st Amendment? (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358655)

So in the US, we have the 1st Amendment which says this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ..."

It seems to me that what this law would do is give a competitive advantage to those newspapers that avoid endorsing candidates.

Isn't that abridging the freedom of the presses that want to make political statements endorsing candidates? It basically says, "Don't make political endorsements, or else we'll tax you."

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358701)

I am not 100% sure on this, but don't churches and other nonprofits have to avoid explicit endorsements too to retain their nonprofit status?

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358783)

They do. Obviously nonprofits including, presumably, newspapers that go this route if it's approved can editorialize about what the city/state/country needs most and be ok. But naming a specific candidate is a violation of IRS rules.

Re:1st Amendment? (4, Insightful)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358817)

The risky thing here is that newspapers practically need to cover political issues while most religions are fine staying out of political issues except when something covers what they see as a moral issue.

So what happens when the government decides a newspaper is a little too biased in their reporting and claim that it's endorsing another candidate? Will the press have to censor themselves to avoid appearing like an endorsement?

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359099)

I'd be interested in how it applied to the whole Op-Ed part of the paper. That stuff isn't remotely factual, and it's very clearly listed as "Opinion" right there in the name. That's where the endorsements come from: the e-board brings in all the candidates (if it can) and interviews them, and then makes a recommendation.

Anyway, the whole idea of bias is impossible to define. Everyone thinks a paper is biased if it doesn't reflect their personal world view. I've seen liberals and conservatives up in arms about the bias against their group on the same day. That's practically the definition of unbiased.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359145)

The press won't have to censor itself any more than other nonprofits who deal with government issues. Its not like this is completely uncharted legal water - precedent does exist regarding what sorts of statements a nonprofit can make without those statements constituting an explicit endorsement of a candidate.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359103)

Oh is that why the Catholic Church hasn't swung the ban hammer on some of the politicians, who lie about some of the church's stances?

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359111)

Picky, picky, picky! You forget that the scoundrels are MAKING the rules up as they go along. They change them to suit their whim. I see the day coming when the Constitution is rewritten using an Etch-a-Sketch. "The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind" and boy, does this blow.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359255)

Yes but if the Democrats Pay your bills, you may be a little more likely to let some negative reporting on the democrats slide while be harsher on the republicans. Such as Public TV and Public Radio, they are sure not to bite the hand that feeds it. The advantages that the news papers had was the fact there were so many of them in the past that in essence if you read multible papers chances are you got a good understanding of the issues. Having all of them being Paid by the government means they will be friendly to those to pay their bills.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358733)

It seems to me that what this law would do is give a competitive advantage to those newspapers that avoid endorsing candidates.

Currently, official religious organizations have tax except status in the USA.

Non-official or small religions ( or cults) often have problem with the IRS because they can't get official recognition (sometimes).

Though, I think Scientology has tax-except status so YMMV.

So with your logic, the government is giving advantages to major religions over minor religions because of tax reasons.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358781)

So with your logic, the government is giving advantages to major religions over minor religions because of tax reasons.

I think that's correct. During the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, I think some churches were going to intentionally endorse candidates, to force the IRS into court on the matter so the law could be invalidated.

I'm not sure whatever happened with that, but I suspect the IRS avoided going after those churches. For what reason, I don't know.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

dragonjujotu (1395759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359253)

I wouldn't see anything wrong with invalidating the law. Gets rid of tax-exempt status... what? Oh they're just going to get rid of the provision about endorsing candidates, what a bunch of crock

Re:1st Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358757)

This will effectively allow the IRS to decide what is political speech.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

fructose (948996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358785)

You don't need to make an official endorsement to show a bias toward one side or the other.

I think this actually fosters more discussion by allowing more voices in a particular market. If there is only one large newspaper spewing out it's story, then you can't get counterpoints from other papers. I think this bill would actually allow people to keep their voices by not letting finances silence them.

Re:1st Amendment? (4, Insightful)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358787)

I would agree with you, but there's already a lot of precedent for this.

For instance, churches are already tax exempt. (Apparent First Amendment violation number one.) But they are legally prohibited from making political endorsements, or risk losing their tax exempt status. (Apparent First Amendment violation number two.) As with all nonprofits organizations.

A lot would have to change for this to be considered unconstitutional.

Churches have already argued this and lost (1)

thefinite (563510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358819)

Isn't that abridging the freedom of the presses that want to make political statements endorsing candidates? It basically says, "Don't make political endorsements, or else we'll tax you."

The same basic argument has already been made by churches many times [washingtonpost.com] . The answer by the Supreme Court has always been, "Endorse anyone you want, just don't expect the Federal government to subsidize it with a tax expenditure [c-span.org] ." Seems like a reasonable outcome to me.

Re:1st Amendment? (4, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358829)

Isn't that abridging the freedom of the presses that want to make political statements endorsing candidates? It basically says, "Don't make political endorsements, or else we'll tax you."

Not really, because the assumption is that everyone deserves to be taxed. Not being taxed is the exception - it's a special privilege, and if you want that status, you are required to do certain things.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358859)

It doesn't prohibit writers endorsing candidates. The paper itself cannot endorse a candidate.

As some have noted before, the whole notion of a paper having an institutional opinion on who should be elected is sort of dated. It used to mean that the person who owned the paper endorsed the candidate. Nowadays, the editors, in conference with their owning board, make a decision as to what endorsements will piss of the smallest portion of their readership.

Endorsements mean nothing. The important thing is maintaining thoughtful criticism.

Re:1st Amendment? (4, Insightful)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358921)

Its the opposite. The government is not punishing any existing newspapers that wish to continue to endorse candidates, instead, they're providing a reward for news papers that wish to return to reporting news instead of making it.

Re:1st Amendment? (2, Insightful)

huckamania (533052) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359221)

It's still a stupid idea. Reporting of news is always going to be slanted one way or another. It's just as easy to not report news that hurts your candidate as it is to only report news that hurts your candidate's opponent.

Besides, it's not taxes that are hurting the newspapers. It is that no one wants to wait until tomorrow to read something that is already old news on the web.

Re:1st Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358977)

competitive advantage??

They CAN'T make money if they choose to go the non-profit route. That's hardly an "advantage". Having to operate off handouts and donations, no ability to attract investors. That's an "advantage"?

What about Public Radio and Public TV stations. Do they have an advantage over Commercial Radio and TV? Their only real adavantage is that they no longer have to care about turning a profit and cn instead offer quality programming. I'd very much like to see news papers follow the lead of NPR.

Re:1st Amendment? (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358997)

Why not just Newspapers?
Why not TV?
Blogs?
Magazines?
What is the Press these days?
I am all for the press not endorsing candidates but I just don't see that happening.

Re:1st Amendment? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359025)

It seems to me that what this law would do is give a competitive advantage to those newspapers that avoid endorsing candidates.

Not really.
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.journalism.newspapers/browse_thread/thread/7d20a09702df3dc8 [google.com]

Although his bill would expressly permit nonprofits to publish newspapers, there is nothing under current law to prevent them from doing so. [...] The only major substantive change in the Cardin bill is a provision that would allow nonprofit newspapers to sell commercial ad space free of charge, provided that at least as much space is allotted for editorial content
as for ads.

There are already non-profit news organizations that get along just fine.
And nothing I've read contradicts what that google groups posting says.

The only thing that isn't 100% clear, to me, is whether the current non-profit newspapers operate under Section 501(c)3 of the IRS tax code (which is what everyone is so scared of & the google groups post elaborates on) or if they operate under some other free speech limiting portion of the tax code (you know, the one that prevents non-profits from endorsing political candidates).

Re:1st Amendment? (2, Insightful)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359165)

Well, Britain manages to have a much livelier, independent, and diverse news environment than we do in the US. Much of the reason is that high inheritance taxes inclined privately owned news chains to go to nonprofit status. Plus of course there's the BBC competing with the private journalism outlets. In the case of Britain, I'm pretty sure they get to make candidate endorsements -- not that anybody cares about such things anyway, except the candidates. I can't believe anybody in the US believes that the "free" corporate press system has led to journalism that's worth a damn.

Re:1st Amendment? (1)

zoo (21911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359259)

No, it's not an abridgment. Any newspaper publisher would still be free to make political endorsements, just not with the same tax advantages that they could have if they took non-profit status.

Rights come with responsibilities. The right of absolute freedom of speech also comes with the responsibility to pay the full costs of their organization.
   

Sooo... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358675)

Would that make any capital gains on your shares in a newspaper tax exempt as well?

Or would any newspaper apply for non-profit status have to buy all their public shares and go private?

Either way, I don't think Murdoch would make his papers non-political.

Great (5, Informative)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358695)

Why not just make everything tax exempt? Then everyone would be more profitable, not just the failed buggy-whip companies.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358801)

What's wrong with buggy-whips? I have all money invested there.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359085)

*Someone* has got to write the news, and bloggers ain't doin' it.

Re:Great (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359123)

Taxes are the price we pay for a modern society.

Re:Great (1)

LoyalOpposition (168041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359307)

Taxes are the price we pay for a modern society.

Taxes are the price we pay for not having highway robbers. And vice versa.

-Loyal

Please add me to the list of tax exempts . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359223)

. . . me, too!

Only old USENET hands and kibologists will get the, admitting lame, joke.

There should be no nonprofits (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358705)

Indivuduals should be equal in the eyes of the law. No special groups, no nonprofits. The "churches" already scam this all way too much.

If you want a low tax, go with this:
http://www.apttax.com/ [apttax.com]

Loophole are just avenues of abuse by which the well structured, well-to-do (read: corporations) with lawyers get away with paying less than their fair share.

Re:There should be no nonprofits (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358749)

If the tax system was fair in the first place, no loopholes would be needed. Income tax is really unlawful. It punishes productivity and penalizes saving.

Re:There should be no nonprofits (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358943)

If the tax system was fair in the first place, no loopholes would be needed. Income tax is really unlawful. It punishes productivity and penalizes saving.

First and third sentences are debateable. The second sentence is, as far as I understand, untrue as stated, according to Article 1, section 8, clause 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America [justia.com] .

You might argue that the income tax is immoral, unconscionable, or unfair, but it appears to be pretty darn legal in the US.

Re:There should be no nonprofits (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359205)

If the tax system was fair in the first place, no loopholes would be needed. Income tax is really unlawful. It punishes productivity and penalizes saving.

Umm... Arguably, without taxes and nothing backing the US dollar, inflation would spiral out of control and that would really punish savers.

Arguably, income tax is preferable over spending tax, because if you reward saving too much you end up with a deflationary death spiral which is what caused the great depression and would still punish people who saved their money because they'd probably be unemployed and have to spend those savings.

Re:There should be no nonprofits (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358809)

Indivuduals should be equal in the eyes of the law. No special groups, no nonprofits. The "churches" already scam this all way too much.

The constitution specifically was clearly written for tax exceptions for these matters.

In fact if you wanted to legally avoid taxes you could invest in state Municipal funds because the constitution specifically says the Federal government cannot tax state funds directly. Also, they had a big hoo-doo back in the 1790's over this matter and the consensus (with the founding fathers) was that religious organizations were not to be taxed and wrote that in.

Re:There should be no nonprofits (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359183)

That's excellent to know

Re:There should be no nonprofits (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359121)

Wow, I had never heard of this before. Thanks for the link.

-Rick

BS Meter is on high (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358711)

The gov't should stay out of the business of the FREE PRESS. First Ammendment anyone?

Re:BS Meter is on high (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358823)

First Amendment prevents the abridging of the freedom of the Press.

It doesn't say anything about promoting it.

If the general welfare is to be promoted, then it is actually incumbent upon the government to not only not tax the Press, but to actively solicit and pay them to disseminate accurate and useful information.

Re:BS Meter is on high (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358879)

The BBC does just fine.

Better than any of the crapfest of multinational media organizations in this country.

Re:BS Meter is on high (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359115)

Yes we should have large unelected corporations do it instead. That works so much better doesn't it.

Good idea (2, Interesting)

fructose (948996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358717)

Considering that when a local newspaper goes under a small part of the community is gone, I think this is a good idea. These small papers fill the niche market that are only in small communities have and help promote local issues that larger newspapers tend to gloss over. Losing the political endorsements would actually be a good thing since it might make the papers less biased. Providing both sides of an issue is much more informative than printing one sided articles because of the political leanings of the paper.

i like it (4, Interesting)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358727)

I think this is a really great idea. It forces them to be a little less biased, and it keeps well-written articles available. The natural beauty of print is that it's costly to publish, compared to digitally. This tends to force the writing to be polished, which online articles, blogs specifically, never achieve. There's just something nice about reading an article someone else has proofread before you. It's jarring to read blogs that have foregone this, as you tend to notice the little grammatical mistakes everywhere. Or worse, it's syntactically correct, but semantically rubbish.

Like Public Broadcasting? (2, Funny)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358729)

You mean we can look forward to having an entire week's worth of issues, once a quarter, be full of nothing but spots begging for donations? Yeah, that'll make subscription rates soar!

BS (3, Insightful)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358735)

That's bullshit, if a news organization cannot survive in the market it doesn't deserve to exist. We don't need another NPR-style organization. News is not Sesame St. for adults. The papers are facing the 21st century with a 19th century technology, WHAT DID THEY THINK WAS GONNA HAPPEN? Meanwhile, New York Times still makes me laugh every time someone links to it and it asks for registration, BS, I close the window right there. Drudge is 21st century news, adapt or die.

Re:BS (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358903)

Drudge and news should never appear in the same sentence.

The fact that Drudge and the Huffinton post and other piles of shit like them are what passes for Web journalism, is the reason so many people are worried about the demise of the traditional newspaper.

Re:BS (1)

Bartab (233395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359047)

The "traditional newspaper" is printout of an AP wire feed, with a "Local" section that is written by four year olds trying to be a part of the politics, not report on them.

Good riddance.

Re:BS (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359237)

And the AP is what? You know that 95% of the AP content comes from member newspapers right? Nice circular logic there.

I'm sorry your local rag sucks the pole, but that's not a good basis for condemning the entire industry.

Re:BS (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359269)

I wonder what the OP thought the name Associated Press was in regards to...

Re:BS (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358957)

Drudge is 21st century news, adapt or die.

In case you didn't notice, Drudge and his host of imitators are news aggregators, not reporters. The stories they link too have to come from somewhere. If all the old line, stale, MSM news outlets that people love to bitch about closed up shop, the blogosphere would have precious little to do.

Re:BS (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359155)

Without newspapers, "news" sites like drudge would cease to exist as well because all he does is copy/past articles from real journalists. If Drudge is 21st century, then why does his webpage look like it was designed in 1993?

Do the same for the "big three" (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358773)

Doing this for the big three would also save them. Money would be generated from taxes on selling things like gasoline and servicing these cars/trucks at dealerships.

I wonder for how long these companies can last given that for GM, which owned almost 75% of the market, has seen share dwindling to less then one-third. Sad indeed.

Newspapers should die (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358807)

They've been replaced by newswebsites, just the same as the grass-eating horse was replaced by a gasoline-eating engine. There's no point to keeping around old, inefficient, and environmentally-damaging papers when the web can fulfill the same role.

In fact my local paper just started a website that looks identical to the old paper-based product, but with the advantage of (1) not killing trees (2) not burning millions of gallons for delivery trucks (3) early delivery at 2pm instead of waiting til 6pm, and (4) it can be archived onto your hard drive with minimal space.

The best part of Capitalism (3, Insightful)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358843)

The best part of Capitalism is letting bad business fail. If the newspapers can't fund themselves legitimately through voluntary commerce, like any other business, they need to fail, as they deserve.

With tax-exempt status, they exists solely at the mercy of government legislation. What are the chances they will criticize the government that grants them favored status?

This is a recipe for State control of news dissemination.

Re:The best part of Capitalism (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359251)

If I hadn't spent all my mod points yesterday in the Mythbusters thread on +1 Funny's, you'd be getting a +1 Insightful right now.

They may not be able to make political endorsement (2, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358845)

but they surely will still have their respective slants on stories, which political cartoons they carry, and so on.

Re:They may not be able to make political endorsem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27358885)

I can't believe we allow endorsements at all! News should be non-biased, or clearly labeled otherwise.

Re:They may not be able to make political endorsem (1)

Speck'sBacon (1042490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359055)

It's impossible for news to be unbiased. Even the process of choosing which stories are news entails a bias on the part of editorial, particularly if they opt to not give much coverage to a particular political issue or protest in favor of another.

No tax on losses and independence (2, Interesting)

folstaff (853243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358869)

If they are losing money, they are not being taxed anyway (even the federal tax code has limits).

Just between us, are you comfortable with a newspaper's independence if government officials and bureaucrats can threaten their tax-exempt status?

Couple this with the return of the fairness doctrine, and you have a recipe for an Orwellian experience.

Considering costs... (5, Interesting)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358937)

The two primary costs of operating a newspaper are (a) paying the reporters, and (b) printing papers. We all know subscriptions are down and that the medium is evolving so that only the largest national papers can afford to print copies. Also, readership in local areas doesn't really demand printed copies as much as they want access to the information. For example, one thing local reporters cover is town council meetings and police reports. Thanks largely to digital search mechanisms, it's way easier to grab this information from the pages of a reputable townie news service website than to sift through a printed paper.

So, I see the costs of printing a newspaper disappearing over the years and that leaves only the cost of paying reporters. My question is... what's to stop the small newspapers from firing the majority of their staff and operating like Internet newspapers with self-moderated volunteer staffs? All it'd take is to deploy Slashcode, buy-in from town administrators and business owners, and a critical mass of town residents to begin operating a near-free town news service.

Meanwhile, I see "tradition newspapers" as an occupation disappearing, regardless of tax exempt status or not.

And look at it this way... the newspaper profit model has been largely based on ad-revenue for so long that a simple "local" implementation of Craigslist could easily facilitate job postings, garage sales, and local advertising so that tiny, tiny charges for these would pay the small staff that's needed to maintain the hardware and post the most interesting stories on the mainpage.

Only hindering the inevidible. (3, Interesting)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27358939)

If video killed the radio star, then the Internet killed the newspaper. Even not-for-profit entities have to make money to pay the employees and that well of money to drying up. As younger generations tap into on demand electronic services, at best the newspaper is already a day behind.

The unfortunate side is small communities will lose their commentary voice for opt-in pieces on local issues. If it wasn't for the local newspaper I wouldn't have a clue on what the city council does or what the school board is doing. The local news channels don't recognize small towns and all they report on is local crime and traffic reports.

Re:Only hindering the inevidible. (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359333)

What exactly is preventing the startup of community-based news websites? I already rely on one of those for the area I live in.

Tax Breaks for Corporate Media (3, Interesting)

mathmathrevolution (813581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359117)

Presumably the goal is to preserve newspapers as a necessary source of information gathering. The idea is that in the age of the internet, we face a free-rider problem and fundamental news gathering is less profitable. Ostensibly journalists are performing a public service.

But how well this proposed solution will address the real problem? There are lots of right-wing newspapers that are not profitable but they have dedicated corporate sponsors so they keep operating. Consider the Washington Times, or the Pittsburgh Tribune. If we let newspapers be non-profits we are giving a huge tax-break to Richard Mellon Scaife, and Rupert Murdoch, and Sun Myung Moon. All of the money these guy pump into their right-wing propaganda machines will be tax-deductible.

I want to save newspapers too, but this proposal will incentivize more propaganda than it will actual news.

Not that bad of an idea (2, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359173)

Considering churches get non-profit, and even some HMOs as well, I would say that newspapers have much more of the public interest in mind than either of the other two. Churches and HMOs generally pay their top employes more than most newspapers; but yet where does the non-profit status currently go?

Desperation effort (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359189)

You have to realize how desperate the newspaper industry has become. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed their last paper edition last week. They're just a web site now, and they distribute their news via Twitter. That's how far down they've come. The Detroit Free Press only prints on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday now. The San Francisco Chronicle may go next.

And those were once Great Metropolitan Dailies. Little papers go under every day.

Nothing is really replacing them. Blogs are mostly punditry; few have paid reporters. If anything, the future may be TV news presented via the Web. TV news has historically been time-limited, but that's not a Web problem.

Not so fast... (1)

mpthompson (457482) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359233)

Currently, contributions to entities actively engaged in the political process are not tax exempt. Nor, should such contributions be tax exempt. However, newspapers, by their nature, are very often a loud voice for one political agenda or another within a community. It seems that it would be very easy to subvert the intentions of this proposal to provide tax-exempt cover for otherwise very blatant political activity. Sorry, but I don't trust politicians to police the political activities of newspapers -- particularly when politicians are directly benefiting from such activities.

I say leave things the way they are and let newspapers stand or fall on the basis as to whether people want to read what they print. Treating newspapers as charities is going in the wrong direction and opens up an opportunity that just begs to be abused.

well done sir (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359285)

And I propose that US lawmakers adopt "non profit" status as well!

Bribes (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27359289)

This makes me immediately question what kind of "campaign funding" this senator has received.

SPON.GE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27359317)

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