I'm a former newspaper guy and I love sitting down and reading the paper. They have a wider range of articles per issue than magazines, for example. Don't get me started on how far above television "news" they are; a person who considers himself or herself informed because they regularly watch a local TV newscast is a person who needs to make a date with Mr. Webster to discuss the meaning of the word "informed."
I think towns with more than one newspaper are lucky. The competition to cover a story better and more accurately helps keep a public more aware of their community and can even make publicity-fearing government officials a bit more circumspect in their shadiness, if not downright honest. It's sad to see newspapers diminish and fade out of city after city, leaving them with either one paper that might get lazy or even worse, at the mercy of the blow-dried TelePrompTer muppets who spend their time scaring us about convenience-store murders, the weather, house fires or all three at once.
BUT...as much as I'd like to see newspapers survive, Cardin's idea is just plain silly. For one, many papers are on the ropes because they didn't reformat themselves to get ahead of the advent of online content. Corporate behemoths rarely react quickly to new situations, and the dinosaurs showed us what happens to big things that move too slow. Spending government funds -- a.k.a. money that the government took from you and me -- in order to save them is a little like spending that money to keep the vacuum tube industry alive because some people still have black-and-white TV sets.
For another, a government-owned press is the kind of thing another big, slow-moving behemoth -- the former Soviet Union -- found out doesn't do you much good in the long run. TASS didn't survive the fall of communism as an independent agency. Gardin says that papers would be free to report on anything, including political campaigns, just like now. They just couldn't make political endorsements. Raise your hand if you think that the critters on Capitol Hill or the state house or City Hall would never ever ever try to define "political endorsement" so that it included reporting on a view or project they opposed.
It's hard to say what kind of news-delivery system we'll wind up with as technology continues to transform communications and information transmission. And the tendency of all news gathering agencies over the last decades to focus on celebrities, "gotcha" news and sensationalized scandal stories has truly de-fanged what should have been a watchdog for the public interest. But Cardin's idea, which would amount to putting a leash on that watchdog, stands out among the bad ideas held by elected officials. Which at least means he's trying harder, I guess.