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September 30, 2009
A House Committee Discusses 'The Future of Newspapers'
Last week a congressional committee heard testimony on the future of newspapers and the proposed H.R. 3620. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) chairs the House Joint Economic Committee (JEC). The JEC met on September 24 to hear testimony from industry experts concerning the “The Future of Newspapers: The impact on the Economy and Democracy.”
Maloney introduced H.R. 3620 (Newspaper Revitalization Act) in the House. She describes it as “a bill which will enable local newspapers to take advantage of non-profit status as a way to preserve their place in communities nationwide.” (Read the three-page bill here.)
Here are several quotes from Maloney and from three of the witnesses who appeared before her committee:
“Journalists play a critical role in monitoring the activities of individuals and institutions that are supposed to be working in the public interest…[T]hey provide a ‘civic alarm system.’ The absence of a vigilant media may even allow corruption to flourish unchecked.” Opening Remarks, Rep. Maloney
“While online news sources and citizen journalists certainly add perspective to the news, very few provide original, in-depth reporting and analysis, and even fewer ascribe to the same professional journalism standards…The creators of valuable content cannot survive without direct compensation from those who use their creative work.” John Sturm, President and CEO, Newspaper Association of America
“The question that we now face is whether there ought to be changes in law and policy to provide support for journalism not as a special favor to the news media, but to advance the general interest in an informed public…[T]he press has not been regarded, and should not be regarded, as just another industry. Government has sought to advance it because a democratic political system cannot function without diverse, free, and independent sources of news….Increasingly, the production of news will require subsidy, and the answer is really from where and under what conditions that subsidy will come...To facilitate that development [of nonprofit support of journalism] Congress should seek to remove any legal obstacles that may stand in the way of newspapers receiving tax-exempt support or becoming nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations themselves.” Paul Starr, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton UniversityOne lone voice among the witnesses offered a partial dissent.
“Newspapers are more than partly to blame. Like other legacy industries before them, newspapers let a generation of opportunities slip through their fingers – from E-Bay, to Google, to Realtor.com to Monster.com. The industry is running out of options, through I believe some remain…So should we care whether newspapers survive? Perhaps not. Typewriters have come and gone. But I believe we do have a stake as citizens in having reporters who are independent, who work fulltime, and who go out and gather news, not just talk about it, and who try to get the faces and the content right.” Tom Rosenstiel, Director, Per Research Center’s Project for Excellence in JournalismAs more and more newspapers circle the financial drain, will we witness additional federal government efforts to keep the ink and paper industry alive?