“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” The vision comes to mind of a kid standing on a city street corner trying to hawk the latest news to the world. If breaking news was happening, an extra edition of the local newspaper may have been printed to spread the word. I doubt few have seen it in their own lifetimes.
Does anyone read the newspaper anymore? Some Wisconsin Democrats have taken the odd position that government intervention and spending is the answer.
Times have changed. That vision of a kid on the corner is now probably close to a century old. The emergence of radio turned much of America’s attention to the airwaves for news and entertainment. A generation later, television became the standard for breaking news. Then came the internet. Paper publications are dying before our eyes.
Even with those other forms of communication, the hometown newspaper was long a vital part of most American communities. Local news stories about city or county issues, coverage of local sports, and the whole range of social events and happenings found their way into the local editions. Folks would scan stories for a glimpse or mention of someone dear to them. You’d advertise stuff to sell, or new jobs in the local classified ads. That was, I guess, until about the turn of the last millennium.
It’s a sad testament to today’s society, but the fact remains most newspaper publications are facing stark times. The explosion of social media outlets, with a 24-hour news cycle at your fingertips, has made many of the print stories that delve deeper and may take days to develop and research often obsolete. Print outlets are adapting to changes in technology, and it is incumbent upon those sources to find their path in today’s world. It’s an arduous task, and many communities are now lacking that hometown flair to their news outlets.
Wisconsin Democrats don’t want to rely on free market forces to determine the future of how you receive your news. A Center Square story described the combination of three bills introduced by Democratic legislators in hopes of propping up local news availability in Wisconsin. One bill would make more scholarship opportunities available for journalism students and provide substantial funding to new journalists. The second bill would create a “Civic Information Consortium” and the third would provide a tax credit for newspaper subscriptions.
I’m in my seventh year of contributing weekly opinion columns to newspaper outlets. I love to write. It is my catharsis. My release. My opportunity to shed burdens about issues and seek to inform and empower others. I don’t want to lose any opportunities to share my views. As a conservative writer, I’ve been called the antichrist, racist, transphobic, a brain-dead Trumpster, and countless other names by readers. My skin is thick, and I take solace in the fact these folks are reading what I write.
In my endeavors, I speak publicly frequently, and sometimes ask “did anyone read Thursday’s paper?” Few hands are raised. It’s disheartening to seem like I’m shouting into the wind. I want folks to read the paper and hear local voices on local matters. Shouldn’t I be supportive of this effort? I think not.
The first bill would create incentives for students pursuing journalism. Is one’s connection to a career only a matter of funding available? Would these students be committed to the industry? Would they be committed to objectivity and fact-finding? How long would governmental propping of news sources continue?
The second bill begs the question…what would a “Civic Information Consortium” look like? The authors of the package are asking for more government involvement in the discernment and distribution of local news. What viewpoints will be allowed? What narratives will pass muster with “Big Brother?” Whose voices will be silenced? The aforementioned story also refers to support from Free Press Action (FPA). FPA “has a history of pushing for more government involvement in the news industry.” Those are scary propositions.
The third bill proposes a 50% tax credit for newspaper subscriptions. I’d like to see details, but has anyone thought this process through? Would newspapers have to spend substantial resources creating some sort of annual statement for patrons about how much they spent on a subscription? You just took a struggling industry and slapped an exhaustive and expensive task in their faces. How much would it save ordinary folks in taxes? Considering marginal tax rate progressions, it would be reasonable to estimate the average rate at about 5.0%. If you pay $50 a month for a newspaper subscription, you’ll get a credit of $15.00 for the year. Is $15.00 a year going to incentivize anyone to subscribe to a paper?
The answer is no. The legislation is pointless.
I enjoy my time with printed newspapers and hope you will join me in giving your local news sources the opportunity to meet a portion of your needs. It’s also time for a continued evolution in how news and information is brought to the eyes and ears of the public, but without big government stepping in.
These bills should end up where most paper does in the end, the shred bin.