Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Federal Aid for Newspapers Would Ban Political Endorsements

Here's some help that should be filed under the "Thanks, but no thanks" category.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) has proposed legislation that would give financial aid to failing newspapers, but there is a catch. Newspapers taking the cash would be banned from publishing political endorsements.

"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," Cardin told Reuters.

The 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. Like all other 501(c)3 organizations, newspapers would be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Many news organizations are considering nonprofit status as a way of surviving these tough times. But nonprofits do operate under a different set of rules. Instead of saving newspapers, a move such as this could turn them all into shoppers. Not that shoppers are bad, they serve a legitimate purpose. But they are not journalist endeavors.

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