By Joe Mathewson
The decline of newspapers threatens the quality of our civic life, our sense of community. Unfortunately, there’s no sign that the long-term erosion of newspaper advertising revenues can be reversed.
Despite the advent of web-based news, newspapers are worth saving. One obvious reason is that they are the source of much online news. They also tie our communities and our nation together in a way that online news services have not achieved. They offer cohesion rather than fragmentation.
One way to preserve newspapers is to develop new sources of revenues: tax-deductible public contributions, membership fees, corporate sponsorships and foundation grants. The model has been well tested, by public broadcasting stations. It works.
Newspapers can convert to not-for-profit form (not much of a give-up for shareholders getting no return anyway) and apply to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status enabling them to solicit tax-deductible contributions. Becoming tax-exempt would not foreclose selling advertising or taking positions on public issues. For many years the IRS has been receptive to tax-exemption applications from not-for-profit organizations that gather and disseminate news.