The Seattle Times is a private entity, and they have a right to run their business however they want. But The Seattle Times also wants, and gets, special treatment because of their value to the community. Sure, they didn’t always live up to their ideals, but who does? Maybe it was excusable when it was just the nepotism of having an editor who maybe can’t write a decent sentence in English because he was the Publisher’s son. Maybe it was excusable when The Seattle Times went after Darcy Burner with lies. Maybe even when they ran their free ad for their preferred candidates and ballot positions, they deserved a pass because they were providing news that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
But when The Seattle Times makes a decision that they’ll deny access to their website to most potential readers it seems like they’ve abandoned the idea of keeping the public informed generally. When they reduce access to their web page, well they’re providing less of a public good, so it may be time to reconsider their B & O tax exemption.
Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t think newspapers should have that 40% exemption in the first place. But as more and more papers move to the paywall model, I’d like the legislature to strip the exemption from papers that hide their content behind a paywall. It’s probably too late to do that in this session (unless there’s a special session) but it’s one more place for our cash strapped state to look once newspapers stop providing a public good.