Newspaper Bailouts

Area bloggers are concerned about my troubled industry. I had no idea they cared. But they do.

 Blog for Iowa carries an interesting piece from The Nation by media reformers Bob McChesney and John Nichols, who advocate government action to save the news media and newspapers from collapse.

Please, read the whole thing. But here’s their idea for giving newspapers a federal financial breather:

What to do about newspapers? Let’s give all Americans an annual tax credit for the first $200 they spend on daily newspapers. The newspapers would have to publish at least five times per week and maintain a substantial “news hole,” say at least twenty-four broad pages each day, with less than 50 percent advertising. In effect, this means the government will pay for every citizen who so desires to get a free daily newspaper subscription, but the taxpayer gets to pick the newspaper–this is an indirect subsidy, because the government does not control who gets the money. This will buy time for our old media newsrooms–and for us citizens–to develop a plan to establish journalism in the digital era. We could see this evolving into a system to provide tax credits for online subscriptions as well.

This was a new one for me, and I clearly have some problems with it. For one big thing, I worry about journalistic independence being exchanged for government help. I mean, this idea has a government-imposed ratio of content to ads. That’s a lot of control. How far would it go?

Although I suppose this might be in the same ballpark as giving out $40 coupons for digital converters so people can watch local TV channels. Both are about making sure people stay informed. And no one would be required to subscribe to a newspaper, a particular paper or any rag for that matter.

But the key question is, will I still be employed? The article, for some reason, fails to directly address this critical issue.

On the other side of the political street, The Iowa Republican, news for Republicans by Republicans, says the secret media bailout has already begun. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

TIR’s chief truth trooper Craig Robinson says Gannett, parent company of The Des Moines Register, is dishing out cost-saving employee furloughs in one-week doses so that its employees can claim unemployment benefits for those unpaid vacations. Horrors.

And this scheme is so insidious that it’s perfectly legal:

The Gannett Company isn’t doing anything illegal, but when more and more Iowans are losing their jobs, it’s distasteful for their employees, who still have jobs, to drain funds from the unemployment system. The unemployment system is funded by Iowa businesses who pay taxes into the Iowa Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, and Workforce Development then makes payments to eligible jobless workers.

 Iowa business like The Des Moines Register?

And this is from the same party featuring hero governors that are refusing to take federal stimulus dollars because they would have to expand unemployment benefits. To jobless people. The ones you’re so worried might starve because some liberal editor got their scratch.

I love this brave new media world. Can I get a tax credit for moving into a mountain top cabin?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Newspaper Bailouts

  1. lobosolo

    lets be honest, the paper industry was in trouble long before the recent financial collapse. the internet changed everything and the newspaper industry was slow to react. the DMR used to make fun of bloggers as not being “journalists” like they were somehow better, well who’s laughing now ? i don’t want to see a bail out of a dying industry, especially one i don’t trust for my news.

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