No fishwrap left behind

Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD, is proposing to fold newspapers into the Department of Education.

Cardin’s Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

What now, without any legislative interference, stops newspapers from becoming non-profits without giving up their right to political speech, the most important example of free speech protected by the First Amendment? I mean, aren’t the AARP and the NRA non-profits who publish magazines containing political opinion? The AARP and the NRA, of course, have members about whom they care intensely, not customers who are supposed to believe content from the Associated Press does not represent a political endorsement.

But, never mind that. It’s obviously a bit too subtle for Senator Cardin. What we must truly puzzle over is his farcical contention that NPR and PBS do not make political endorsements; on the strength of which fallacy he deftly advocates removing the First Amendment rights of newspaper publishers. “We had to destroy the Press in order to save it?”

Senator, what newspaper wants to be castrated? The thrill won’t be running up their legs anymore.

Newspapers are going online, and they will live or die there based on whether people want to read the content. If the value – educational, prurient or humorous – of the writers’ output does not attract a readership, so be it. Isn’t the demise of newspapers about the shift of advertising dollars to platforms people actually want to spend time reading? Besides, I can’t imagine how the semi-annual pledge drive from the Lansing State Journal would even be conducted. Extra sticky notes on the front page?

Minus endorsements for even local candidates and critiques of local political policy, the whole LSJ might as well be MSU sports, weather and TV listings. Suppression of political speech would probably improve the “balance” of the Letters to the Editor, but I doubt publishing the remaining missives would be worth the labor cost. Take out the wingnuts and moonbats and you’ve got a few people from PETA objecting to the local appearance of a circus or rodeo leavened with occasional pleas for everyone to stop eating meat, and seasonal complaints about snow removal and road repair. You could even make a good case that’s all political. Boring won’t help.

Senator Cardin doesn’t understand that the newspapers are failing because the content of their stories – not the editorials, the stories – are mostly endorsements of a specific political philosophy. Compounding this error, he names his bill so as to make NRA the acronym. That’s a half measure, and he should rename it.

Here’s a suggestion: Preserving Reflexive Advocacy for Venerated Democrats Act. Or maybe Sycophant Assistance Program.

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