WASHINGTON (CN) – A week after legislation was introduced in the House that could grant newspapers nonprofit status, the Joint Economic Committee convened a hearing to search for solutions for an industry that is cutting jobs at record rates. Between June 2008 and June 2009, newspaper publishers cut almost 50,000 jobs – nearly 15 percent of their work force.
“Not nearly enough is being done to find ways to preserve these institutions that are so critical to our democracy Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, said Thursday, as chair of the committee.
Between 2006 and 2008, newspaper revenues fell 23 percent, from nearly $50 billion to $38 billion.
Losses are driven by dwindling advertising revenue, particularly from real estate and autos, and shrinking subscriptions. The Internet has cut into newspapers’ once-dominant hold on Classified ads, and free access to news reports has hurt circulation.
As one newspaper after another cuts staff or closes forever, repercussions could be widespread and some of them unforeseen.
“Journalists play a critical role in monitoring the activities of individuals and institutions that are supposed to be working in the public interest,” Maloney said. “The absence of a vigilant media may even allow corruption to flourish unchecked.”
Maloney introduced legislation last week that would enable local newspapers to obtain nonprofit status, which could help them through tax exemptions.
In promoting her bill, Maloney cited the Bill of Rights’ protection for the press.
“It’s clear that we need to explore alternative business models to ensure an independent and vibrant press in the 21st century,” Maloney said.