The Peoria plan for saving local dailies

by Bill Richards, Crosscut

With the fate of the Post-Intelligencer seemingly sealed at least as a newspaper, and the Seattle Times teetering on the financial edge, the Seattle City Council will wade into the crisis Wednesday at 2 pm. Nick Licata’s “Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel” Committee plans to spend two hours with a panel of news professionals, exploring possible ways to save Seattle’s disappearing newspapers. (Disclosure here: Crosscut’s publisher, David Brewster, will be one of the panel members.)

Exactly what Licata’s committee can, or will, do to fix things isn’t clear. But the committee will hear one intriguing possibility now under consideration in Peoria, Ill. That Illinois city is wrestling with its own newspaper problems, with the Peoria Journal Star and its owner, Gatehouse Media, on the financial ropes. Peoria Newspaper Guild official Jennifer Towery will describe for Licata’s committee how a community coalition is pushing legislation to turn her city’s struggling privately owned paper into a “low profit” L3C community-owned operation.

That’s a tax term for a new hybrid business model that meets the IRS’s definition of a charity, but operates like a for-profit corporation. Vermont became the first state to authorize L3Cs last year, and Michigan and North Carolina are moving toward their own versions of the model. Vermont’s Secretary of State’s office offers this description: “The basic purpose of the L3C is to signal to foundations and donor-directed funds that entities formed under this provision intend to conduct their activities in a way that would qualify as program-related investments.”

[continue reading this article at crosscut.com]

article originally published at http://crosscut.com/2009/01/27/seattle-newspapers/18808/.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey