Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Newspapers to Congress: Please Don’t Give Us a Bailout

newspaperlessThe newspaper bailout proposal you may have heard about over the last few months? The newspapers want no part of it, says an industry spokesman.

That said, the industry wouldn’t turn down some help from Congress, says John Sturm, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America.

Testifying at a House hearing this morning, Sturm says his group does like proposals that would let newspapers–and other businesses–change some of their accounting practices related to tax refunds (via net operating-loss provisions) and pension plans. Oh, and he’s in favor of a proposed law that would let papers operate as nonprofits while still generating advertising revenue.

The complete text of Sturm’s opening statement is embedded at the bottom of this post, and if you want to watch the hearing, organized by Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, it was streamed live (albeit choppily) here.

My political handicapping skills are nonexistent, but that said, I think there’s no chance of Congress passing a bill that singles out newspapers for aid. Local papers are still vitally important to local lawmakers, but many of those lawmakers’ constituents hate their papers, for all manner of offenses, real and imagined. I just can’t imagine what they’d do if they were told their tax dollars were going to support their local rag.

Still, I wouldn’t rule out some politically motivated pressure being applied to bogeymen like Craigslist and Google (GOOG), in the form of antitrust scrutiny or other arm-twisting.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald