Newspaper bailout: Obama says he'd consider it, but should taxpayers?

With banks and carmakers reaping enormous benefits from taxpayer-funded bailouts, you have to wonder: Who will get the next scoop of bailout cash? President Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade in an interview that he's open to proposals that would provide newspapers with generous tax cuts if they transition to nonprofit status.

"Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it's paid for, is really a challenge," Obama said. "But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy.
"I am concerned," he continued, "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. What I hope is that people start understanding if you're getting your newspaper over the Internet, that's not free, and there's got to be a way to find a business model that supports that."

Offering tax breaks to newspapers in exchange for going nonprofit seems like a fair option -- and a bit more reasoned than the approach ("Let's send them checks and see what happens") taken with the banking and auto-industry bailouts. How much would the tax breaks for newspapers cost us?

As Obama said, there are no detailed proposals out yet. But let's be honest: At the current rate of losses, newspapers aren't going to be anything close to a valuable source of tax revenue anywhere anytime soon.


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