White House says no newspaper bailouts

The White House expressed "concern" and "sadness" on Monday over the state of the ailing US newspaper industry, but made it clear that a government bailout was not in the cards.

"I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "That might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles."

Gibbs was responding to a reporter who asked what the White House thought about the recent closure of several US newspapers and a threat to shut down the venerable Boston Globe.

"Obviously (President Barack Obama) believes there has to be a strong free press," the spokesman said. "I think there’s a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers."

US newspapers have been grappling with a steep drop in print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

The Senate subcommittee on communications, technology, and the Internet announced plans meanwhile to hold a hearing on "The Future of Journalism."

Among those scheduled to appear at Wednesday’s hearing is Senator Ben Cardin, who recently introduced legislation aimed at helping US newspapers by giving them tax breaks as non-profit organizations.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and contributions to support coverage or operations would be tax deductible under Cardin’s bill.

Others expected to testify include Marissa Mayer, a vice president at Internet search and advertising giant Google which operates the popular news aggregator Google News, and Arianna Huffington who is co-founder of news and opinion website The Huffington Post.