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Church of the Grey Lady: Will Newspapers Become Charities?

John on September 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm

The Hill reports on a conversation President Obama had with editors of the Toledo Blade last Friday. The topic was the death of print journalism at the hands of blogs. This graph made me wonder if Obama has been reading Mark Bowden’s Atlantic piece:

I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.

Funny this never seemed to bother Obama when he was writing for DailyKos, a blog not known for its rigorous fact-checking and nuance. Putting that aside, the real news in the interview was this:

The president said he is “happy to look at” bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

“I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet, but I’ll be happy to look at them,” Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations.

Of course 501(c)(3) is the designation given to public charities and most especially to churches. Here is the IRS page describing the qualifications to be classified under 501(c)(3):

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual…

Sorry, Pinch, but I think that means you. But here’s the best part:

Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct.

Frankly, the more I think about it the more I like this idea. We would finally have legal recourse for addressing the Times’ bias. Not to mention that Times Select (or whatever it’s called now) would be tax deductible. In my view, anyone who reads Frank Rich regularly deserves a personal bailout. And who knows, maybe it would allow some people at the Times to explore the road not taken.

Sister-Maureen-Dowd

Sister MoDo

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