30 Sep 2009 Quote of Note: Keep Newspapers Independent
“Newspapers are the heart of America’s greatest publishing tradition – independent voices eager to expose official wrongdoing, to shine light in dark places, to speak for ordinary people. It is no exaggeration to say that newspapers were so crucial to public debate that the American Revolution might never have happened without them. From the Republic’s earliest days, newspapers have been the watchdogs of the high and mighty, holding them to account, criticizing their actions, and even denigrating them, though usually with good reason. Policy decisions on wars, taxes, tariffs and debts have been routinely judged as well, and often even more harshly. John Jay, for example, who was one of the ‘Publius’ trio of authors of the Federalist Papers, once complained that he could travel at night by the light of his own burning effigies after signing the Jay Treaty of 1794 with Britain.
If newspapers become tax-exempt foundations, such independence will sooner or later be lost forever. The tax code bars such organizations from taking positions on legislation or endorsing candidates. Just as think tanks now are routinely threatened with loss of their tax status for getting too close to politics, so editors of every political stripe will find themselves at constant risk, forced to weigh the words of their editorials and news stories based on tax consequences rather than accuracy and merit. Even more ominously, the bill extends the offer of tax-free status to newspapers only so long as they remain ‘necessary or valuable in achieving an educational purpose.’ No genius is required to figure out who will define what is an appropriate educational purpose.”
-Editorial, “No government bailout for newspapers,” Washington Examiner, October 1, 2009