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Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

Congress considers fate of newspapers

From left to right, Marissa Mayer, vice president of Google Inc.’s search products and user experience; Steve Coll, former managing editor of the Washington Post; Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post; Alberto Ibarguen, president and Chief Executive Officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; James M. Moroney, publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas Morning News; and David Simon, TV producer and former newspaperman, testify Wednesday before a hearing on the future of journalism before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington.

From left to right, Marissa Mayer, vice president of Google Inc.’s search products and user experience; Steve Coll, former managing editor of the Washington Post; Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post; Alberto Ibarguen, president and Chief Executive Officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; James M. Moroney, publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas Morning News; and David Simon, TV producer and former newspaperman, testify Wednesday before a hearing on the future of journalism before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington.

May 7, 2009

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— Calling it a necessary pillar of democracy, a Senate subcommittee examined the state of American journalism Wednesday at a time when newspapers are being shuttered and downsized and network TV news audiences are declining.

“Newspapers and broadcasters have been a check on the excesses of government, business and individuals,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

“But what happens when our watchdog grows mute and can no longer bark? When newspapers slice their staff and slash their news operations? What happens is that we all suffer. ... The inevitable result is less reporting, less news, and less coverage of our communities and interests at home and abroad.”

The woes of the newspaper industry are now front-page news. A shift in readership to free Internet sites and plummeting advertising revenue have forced venerable publications such as Denver’s 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News and the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer to close.

Surviving newspaper companies, including McClatchy Newspapers, are doing so through drastic budget cuts, downsizing, asset sales, layoffs, furloughs and salary and benefit cuts. During the past year, media companies have cut 41,000 jobs.

Even so, some newspaper giants, such as Tribune, are in bankruptcy.

Now, members of Congress, who sometimes bristle at press coverage of them, are searching for ways to help buck up an industry that many Wall Street analysts think is well past its prime in the Internet age.

“Despite the 24/7 availability of news from print, broadcast and digital sources, there remains one clear fact: When it comes to original in-depth reporting that records and exposes actions, issues, and opportunities, nothing has replaced a newspaper,” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., told a Senate Commerce Communications subcommittee.

Cardin introduced a bill he calls the Newspaper Revitalization Act. It would allow newspapers to operate as educational nonprofit entities with a tax status similar to public broadcasters, churches and hospitals.

The papers’ advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and donations to the publications would be tax-deductible.

The papers would lose a degree of independence under the bill: They’d no longer be able to endorse political candidates.

“It would not bring the end of the First Amendment and free speech,” Cardin said. “Whether conservative, liberal, or middle-of-the-road, each newspaper would maintain its editorial voice and be able to clearly state its position on issues affecting their community — local and national.”

Some newspaper executives question whether Cardin’s idea is a cure. They also express unease about the perception of a potentially cozy relationship between the press and the government, which the press is supposed to cover aggressively to fulfill its “watchdog” function as envisioned under the First Amendment, which guarantees a free press.

“The essential question is whether the current crisis in journalism has brought forward matters of public interest sufficient to warrant review and adjustment of those journalism-shaping policies that Congress already sees — and whether those reforms can be undertaken without reducing the distance between government and journalism,” said Steve Coll, a former managing editor of The Washington Post.

Still, Coll said he viewed the nonprofit model as an interesting concept and suggested that Congress should reduce barriers in the tax code that could hinder such a shift.

“Even the most optimistic practitioners of the new journalistic models tend to accept that a world in which Web-based publishers or aggregators could afford, for example, to simultaneously fund and operate professional journalism bureaus in Baghdad, Kabul, Islamabad, Europe and Asia is simply not foreseeable at present,” Coll said.

Comments

gr 5 years, 3 months ago

Bailout!

So the government wants to own the newspapers, too?

"The papers’ advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and donations to the publications would be tax-deductible."

Would that include newspaper subscriptions?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Making them tax-exempt does not mean government owns them.

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gr 5 years, 3 months ago

Searching for ways to help buck up an industry does not mean that the government doesn't want to own them.

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Flap Doodle 5 years, 3 months ago

Putting the "dead" in dead-tree media.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Actually, the collapsing newspaper industry is a perfect example of why corporate capitalism isn't the perfect solution to meeting all of society's needs.

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gr 5 years, 3 months ago

"of why corporate capitalism isn't the perfect solution to meeting all of society's needs"

I don't know, does society NEED newspapers? Looks like society is saying they are not needed. Like expensive poor quality cars?

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Flap Doodle 5 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't the DNC already have control of many publications that are pretending to be newspapers?

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avoice 5 years, 3 months ago

Newspapers have done this to themselves. The public no longer views the media (any media) as being independent or being a "watchdog." Everyone knows that newspapers print what amounts to press releases as if it is news. (Think big pharma.) Also, local papers bend and often omit the true facts in order to pander to their favorite causes, organizations, businesses and individuals.

If the press weren't always trying to be so manipulative, people would be more willing to trust and listen to what they are reporting. But as long as we can't trust what is being reported, we aren't going to spend our money on these newspapers.

The answer to this dilemma is to look at what avenues people ARE using to get their news; find out what people really want, what they really trust. A lot of folks do trust PBS and public radio. So nonprofit newspapers probably would be a good solution.

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 3 months ago

Newspapers have lost their conservitive readers because we are tierd of being called stupid. Liberal readers do not pay for anything, so there you go, out of business...

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classclown 5 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone considered that the decline may be due to people being disgusted with what passes for news these days? Hardly any of it which is actually new, but simply a regurgitation of previous "news" in a new wrapper.

How many times have you noticed the same exact story word for word under different headlines spanning several days?

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classclown 5 years, 3 months ago

If tv newstations go down the tubes, does that mean that Katie Horner will have to go "Paul Revere" whenever there is a rain cloud?

"The tornadoes are coming! The tornadoes are coming!"

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classclown 5 years, 3 months ago

gr (Anonymous) says…

I don't know, does society NEED newspapers?

=====================================

Fish will still need wrapping. Bird cages will still need lining. Outhouses will still need emergency stash.

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notajayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

"Actually, the collapsing newspaper industry is a perfect example of why corporate capitalism isn't the perfect solution to meeting all of society's needs."

Really, herr klowne? It's actually a perfect example of how it meets society's needs in a more modern, timely, efficient, responsive, and overall much better way. With the availability of information on the internet, printed newspapers can die a much-deserved death, following in the footsteps of horse-drawn trolleys, steamships, and (something more appropriate for you) home cloth-diaper deliveries. The consumers are making their choice, and corporations that are invested in the print-news industry can adapt or perish.

If you don't agree that the demise of print-news is an improvement in the technological age, boohoozo, perhaps you'd like to ponder how long it would have taken to get your 12577 incessant whining posts published as letters to the editor.

By the way, boohoozo, how much environmental damage is caused by the production and distribution of printed newspapers, not to mention the paper they're printed on?

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lawrence_kansas_usa 5 years, 3 months ago

So.....how soon before the LJ World falls by the wayside?

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