Rep. Marlin Schneider is either a strong believer in the free press or he is desperate to get newspapers off his back. Either way, the outcome of this idealism/cynicism may very well be a solid measure to keep local newspapers afloat in Wisconsin:
A Wisconsin state lawmaker known for his rocky relationship with the press wants to save newspapers even though he admits to sometimes hating reporters.
“It’s hard for me because you guys jerk me around all the time,” said Democratic state Rep. Marlin Schneider, a 39-year veteran from Wisconsin Rapids, at a Tuesday news conference. “Some days I hate your guts.”
Schneider said his volatile relationship with the press will protect him from accusations that he’s doing favors for the industry. In recent years Schneider, a privacy advocate, has often clashed with media groups over how much information should be made public through the state’s online court system.
The plan announced by Schneider on Tuesday would make any building associated with newspaper production exempt from property taxes. Currently, printing presses only are exempt. Because it has yet to be formally introduced, there is no cost estimate.
This is a good plan. If passed, there have to be strong protections built in that prevent future lawmakers from using the tax-exempt status to blackmail nosey papers. There are many forms of government media participation which are wrongheaded and run against the tenants of free speech, such as the Fairness Doctrine, which far too many liberals tout as the answer to the cable news catastrophe. We don’t need government regulation, we need government investment. In addition to Schneider’s proposal, there needs to be a serious movement to push for more public media outlets, such as PBS. It would cost so little but do so much.
The inevitable question, however, is what constitutes a newspaper? Can anybody who puts out a newsletter make an attempt at tax-exempt status? There were surely be definitions in the legislation – let’s hope they put up walls to prevent non-news corporations from exploiting the loophole by claiming that they too “put out news.”
Tags: Marlin Schneider, media criticism