Against the Grain

Nonprofit News?

Media hounds have been discussing, in recent weeks, a solution to newspapers' woes: Convert the papers into nonprofits and run them from the proceeds of their endowments. Writing for Slate, Jack Shafer says keep dreaming. Such schemes fail to account for newspapers' number one problem: the decline in readership. “Missing from the nonprofit debate,” Shafer writes, “is any mention of why enough paying customers can't be found to support these news-gathering institutions if they are so vital to our ‘democratic constitutional system.’” A newspaper should be beholden to its readers and the market. And how, exactly, would a nonprofit paper maintain neutrality? If The Times was funded by Buffett or Gates, wouldn't they have to tread carefully when covering the stock market or technology? The hope of wealthy benefactors is only a means to delay the inevitable changes facing newspapers.