To Save Itself, Press Should Become a Religion

Papers would enjoy the benefits of tithing and tax-exemption: Bates
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2009 2:44 PM CST
Individuals smile as they hold up their recently purchased special election editions of the Washington Post newspaper, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
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(Newser) – As profits continue to fall, some have suggested turning newspapers into non-profit, endowed institutions similar to colleges. A better way to go non-profit would be for the press to declare itself a religion, writes Stephen Bates for Slate. The tax benefits would be substantial, as would legal protections for reporters-turned-priests, and Bates notes that the earliest American journalists were men of the cloth, who would review the week’s events in sermons.

American journalism is already something of a religion—"a belief system and meaning-making kit that is shared across editorial cultures in mainstream newsrooms,” as NYU’s Jay Rosen has written. Journalists work to fulfill American ideals of democracy, enforce the sanctity of self-government, and report on those who transgress societal norms. “It shouldn't be that hard to reposition the press as a church,” Bates writes. “It's already halfway there.”