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Journalism as a Public Good: How the Nonprofit News Model Can Save Us from Ourselves
Communication Law and Policy  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-08-04, DOI: 10.1080/10811680.2021.1937005


At a time when many U.S. newspapers find themselves at the edge of a financial precipice, The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent transformation into a 501(c)(3) public charity presents a potentially promising route to economic safety for other daily newspapers. Although the nonprofit, tax-exempt model has been an increasingly popular one for new media outlets, the IRS’s bestowal of such status on a major daily newspaper marks an historic event — one that other newspapers, and their legal counsel, can learn from. This article outlines several issues such practitioners and owners should be aware of as they consider taking the leap to nonprofit status. The nonprofit route can have not only financial advantages for news publications, but it may also provide a better environment for cultivating the type of high-quality journalism that is essential to preserving our democracy. The legal requirements for 501(c)(3) organizations, as well as the ownership structure, have the potential to drive hard-hitting reporting on the most important issues, particularly for local publications, many of which are currently hemorrhaging such coverage. This article argues that journalism is a public good, and as such, a natural fit for the non-profit model.