Minnesota's most liberal newspaper, the Star Tribune, filed for bankruptcy a few months ago. Excuse me while I stop writing and do the happy dance for a moment. It's not that I wish the writers, editors, photographers, and other staff of the paper ill will. On the contrary; I grew up reading the Strib. Despite its flaws, the paper elicits a bit of childhood nostalgia. More than that, I don't wish an unplanned job search on anyone in this economy.
But soon-to-be displaced Strib employees are now clinging to the sinking newspaper's last life preserver. Earlier this month, a group of them launched SavetheStrib, a website designed to help them find a new owner for their "essential community resource too valuable to lose." In addition to their pleas for help, they've proposed a new business model, one that Minnesotan and Hot Air blogger Ed Morissey said "would certainly set off screeches of class-warfare howling in the Strib's editorial section if any other corporation tried it."
The revamped business model is the brainchild of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild:
The Guild is supporting federal legislation in Washington that would include newspapers among businesses that offer a "social benefit" to the community under current Internal Revenue Service rules. This would pave the way for a unique hybrid ownership model called an L3C --a low-profit limited liability corporation -- that qualifies as a charity under IRS rules, but is operated as a for-profit business.
Perhaps I need a more liberal worldview to read that correctly, but I believe the Strib would like to make a profit and then be exempt from paying taxes on it. Who knew that newspapers were charities rather than businesses?
Clearly, the folks who thought this gem up aren't living in the reality of a capitalist society. The newspaper is dying in part because of the difficult economic climate. If they offered a product that the public wanted, at a price the public is willing to pay, they would be able to justify the salaries they pay their staff and the concessions they have given to the unions.
But the other problem is that the Star Tribune wants to promote a liberal agenda, the opinions and desires of its readership be damned. Ironically, this mentality is apparent even on the SavetheStrib website, which helpfully informs visitors: "While we appreciate comments from all vantage points, this site is not a forum for political viewpoints. If you have a problem with the newspaper's content we suggest you write a letter to the editor or post a comment to the specific article on startribune.com. We understand that not everyone agrees with what we produce. However, we are looking for constructive comments. Thank you."
Rather than change their ways or face the music, the powers behind this struggling newspaper would rather, in true liberal form, beg for money or an exception to the laws of corporate taxation. Ones they've long been in favor of imposing on other people's businesses.
The Strib is using up its last lifeline. But it's really been drowning for a while.