Are Newspapers Vital?

Senator Benjamin Cardin has an op-ed in this morning's Washington Post, defending his proposed law to let qualified newspaper companies obtain non-profit status. I've written about the law before, and I still wish, where Cardin writes things like "Newspapers provide a vital service," that he instead said "newspapers provide a vehicle for vital newsgathering." There's nothing vital about a bundle of dead trees! When people get worried about the fate of the industry and the fate of democracy, they're worried about a decline in the amount and quality of information available to citizens. They're not worried about the medium for transmitting the information.

And a nitpick. Cardin writes: "I want to make clear that this proposal would involve no infusion of federal taxpayer money." Well, that's kind of fudging it. This kind of proposal must involve an infusion of taxpayer money. Increasing the ease with which one can claim non-profit status will reduce tax revenue. Since Cardin is not proposing an equivalent decrease in spending, a decline in tax revenue must be offset by higher taxes in the future. But maybe a robust news industry would let people know about this kind of thing.