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Call it the opening salvo of the broadsheet bailout. Castaway columnists and struggling stringers might be America's next charity case if Sen. Benjamin Cardin has his way.
The Maryland Democrat proposed a bill Tuesday that would rewrite tax law to allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, just as long as they don't make official endorsements of political candidates.
But some media analysts say that could create government control of the news.
But critics warn that if papers become tax-exempt nonprofits, they will be ponying up more than the money's worth: they'll be giving up their independence to stay in the government's good graces.
"It would de-claw participating newspapers, which couldn't endorse candidates or freely question the party in power," said Ken McIntyre, a media and public policy fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
"Reporters and editors are supposed to be wary skeptics of politicians and bureaucrats on behalf of readers -- not beholden to the government's favor."
The IRS allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to operate freely as long as they don't violate certain rules regarding political activity. That could spell trouble for editorial pages, which Cardin does not mention in his legislation.
Obama will tell you what he wants you to hear.
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