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A silly idea from Maryland

March 31, 2009 - Frank Robinson
One of the dumbest things I have heard of popped up the other day. I guess it's because of the federal bailout frenzy.

A guy from Maryland, Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin, introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to become nonprofit organizations. His reasoning is it would be helpful to the newspaper industry during these tough economic times.

Of course, with any offer of government help, there always are strings attached. The usual practice of paid circulation, single copy sales and advertising revenue simply is not good enough in his eyes.

Newspapers would be considered nonprofit organizations. The government would put, according to the proposal, newspapers into a category where editors' and publishers' hands are tied. The voice of the newspapers would be controlled by the government, for the government.

To that, I have to say, no thanks.

Newspapers have, and always will, serve a vital role in the community. Communities, through advertising revenue and sales of the newspaper, support and use their newspaper. People count on the newspaper to gather, organize and deliver the local news. Readers rely on the newspaper to provide useful information -- from obituaries and legal advertising to sales at the local stores or whether or not taxes are going to be increased.

There are hundreds of uses for the local newspaper. That's why a silly idea by a congressman in Maryland makes no sense. The strings are simply unacceptable.

The idea would prohibit, for example, endorsements of issues and candidates in elections. It would eliminate the true meaning of free speech. It would be similar to the National Public Radio, and subject to all kinds of restrictions.

It would not be a free press. To me, that is unacceptable.


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