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Spain's Link Tax Taxes Journalist's Patience 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the seeing-read dept.
rsmiller510 writes Spain's new tax on linking to Spanish newspaper articles is ill defined and short sighted and ends up protecting a dying industry, while undermining a vibrant one. In another case of disrupted industries turning to lawmakers to solve their problems, this one makes no sense at all, especially given the state of the Spanish economy and the fact that it comes 15 years too late to even matter. From the article: "While newspapers are at least partly correct to blame the Internet for their troubles, they should recognize that their own mismanagement also played a key role. Newspapers everywhere waited much too long to take the Internet seriously, and while virtually every surviving newspaper has a website now, they almost invariably treat those sites as a necessary evil, as something separate from the news collection and delivery that they do with print."
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Spain's Link Tax Taxes Journalist's Patience

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:48PM (#47600685)

    ...is "professional journalism", and the "vibrant one" comprises bloggerss, press releases and Google Adwords, yes?

    While Spain has offered a fucking awful solution to the problem, the problem of the destruction of journalism is an extremely serious one and we should worry about it far more than we worry about protecting the freedom to destroy it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The destruction of journalism has little to do with the internet.
      It's mostly down to everyone putting out company press releases like it was news.
      If newspaper companies continued to do actual research and then require the same subscription for delivering a pdf to your inbox every day I think people wouldn't mind. The problem is that they release the same shit everyone does, and demand a premium for the right to read it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If newspaper companies continued to do actual research ...

        Like the Washington Post and New York Times?

        ....and then require the same subscription for delivering a pdf to your inbox every day I think people wouldn't mind.

        Apparently, people do mind because those papers are hanging by a thread - well, the Washington Post got rescued by Jeff Bezos [google.com].

        People do not want real news. They want infotainment. And as far as news reporting, every web page has "free" ad serviced AP news - news.amazon.com, news.google.com, even the Economist.com gives you a couple of freebies.

        Investigative journalism is pretty much left to documentaries and books; which may be for the best, actually. You real

        • Re:They do mind. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by negablade (2745981) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:37PM (#47601091)

          People do not want real news. They want infotainment.

          Speak for yourself, bud. I want real news but I want news of interest to me. I don't care about sports, politics or what the latest celeb said or did. I want science and technology, and I have and would pay for that kind of news. Websites and RSS feeds allow people to pick what interests them. Print doesn't. Bring on personalised newspapers.

          • by rahvin112 (446269)

            And you aren't willing to pay for it. You forgot to add that point. And that little point make a HUGE difference.

            The whole point of journalism is that they cover everything then put it in sections and you read the sections you want. When you are no longer willing to pay for any of it and you restrict access to those that tailor it to your views you've just asked for infotainment and the ego stroking that comprises most "news" these days. Fox news is so successful (or was) precisely because it went full ego

            • by Anonymous Coward

              And you aren't willing to pay for it. You forgot to add that point. And that little point make a HUGE difference.

              What part of "I have and would pay for that kind of news" didn't compute?

            • by sabri (584428)

              And you aren't willing to pay for it.

              I'm willing to pay for good news. But, the last time I paid for a Newsweek and a Time Magazine before a flight, I got 45% ads and 25% useless content. Only 30% of the actual print was interesting to me. I'd be more than happy to pay double the price if that helps me get rid of the penile erection dysfunction ads on every other page (what the F that says about your reader base...)

              Oh, and in other news: the US is now considering a DVD tax to support the 3.5" floppy industry.

            • > And you aren't willing to pay for it. You forgot to add that point. And that little point make a HUGE difference.

              That's not a difference between dead-tree news and online news. Thirty years ago, before the web existed, I learned that a newspaper which sold for 25 cents cost $1.25 to produce. Just the blank paper was about 26 cents. All of the news-gathering, printing, and distribution was paid for by ads, exactly like online news sources today.

              The main point of the 25 cent charge was as a hit-counte

              • Also, note that one of a newspaper's cash cows was the Classified Ad section ("want ads").

                For the younger folks who may not have gone through a newspaper, imagine Craigslist printed in small type on pages with multiple columns. Every advertiser paid something like a dollar or two for even a small listing, and there were a lot of people advertising that way. That used to go to newspapers almost exclusively, and it isn't coming back. There was no reason to link such ads with the newspaper except that th

                • by Reziac (43301) *

                  First and foremost, Craigslist filled the need for an economical classifieds system... if it's free, no harm in trying it... so we did. Readers of classifieds naturally followed.

                  Speaking as one who used to rely on newspaper classifieds, the big reason private party ads in newspapers went away wasn't so much Craigslist, as that newspaper classifieds were increasingly expensive and increasingly had a poor ROI. $60/week for two lines (about 8 words) was typical. Yet ad response rates were dropping, far more th

          • He probably wasn't speaking for himself, but (sadly) for the majority of the public. For those of us that like the print, magazines are specialized enough to at least offer a higher density of interesting material.

        • by kwbauer (1677400)

          NYT version of actual research: Did Obama issue it? Yes, must be true.

        • I just don't want pre-masticated opinions mixed in with reporting.

          I agree on the investigative journalism part, though.

          You'd think someone would get around to finding out what happened in Benghazi.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the farking newspaper industry had woken up (not that they have yet) and created a presence on the Internet that mirrors their print publications 15 years ago, then the advertising revenue they would have gained would have kept them vibrant journalistic publications. After all, newspapers have NEVER made a dime on their print issues, except via advertising. Eyeballs == profits. It's too bad they forgot this maxim of news publishing. :-(

      • "After all, newspapers have NEVER made a dime on their print issues, except via advertising."

        The price of a newspaper has traditionally reflected the cost of the actual paper it contained. (it also discourages littering - people are more careful with things they pay for)

        Which makes the issue of charging extra for online access somewhat odd.

    • The ugly bit is that (while most online 'journalism' is even worse than the printed flavor or propped up by it) the internet doesn't need to do any journalism to make newspapers financially problematic.

      Unless all the ads are just for show and subscriptions and purchases actually fund the operations, simply getting hammered by online mechanisms that do nothing but classified ads or job searches, or theater tickets, or all the other bits and pieces that used to be something you'd check the newspaper for co
      • "Unless all the ads are just for show"

        Going back 25 years again - the company I owned ran a 3 month newspaper campaign - it cost us about $2500 and picked up 3 extra sales.

        We got 200 extra sales with 1 afternoon of local AOR station radio advertising that cost about $80

        We also discovered that a single $5 ad in the classified of the "serious" papers got more sales than a 1/4 page ad in the front 4 pages or back 3 pages of the "popular" ones (Each classified ad would pick up about 20 sales)

        Newpapers were dyin

    • the problem of the destruction of journalism is an extremely serious one and we should worry about it far more than we worry about protecting the freedom to destroy it.

      Journalism is not being destroyed. Journalism as we once knew it is being destroyed but that is a very different thing. It's being replaced by something different because the business model that it used to depend on is under attack. Newspapers and TV stations depended on local monopolies based on the expense of distributing information and they were absurdly profitable for a long time. The internet and other forms of media have knocked much of that pricing power away and now for the first time in a lon

      • by ehynes (617617)

        Ad sponsored journalism always had a built in conflict of interest even when they were scrupulous about keeping the business and content separate.

        Do you seriously believe that the "new" journalism isn't ad sponsored. What, other than ads, do they have as a source of funding? At least the "old" journalism could get some revenues directly from their readers. The "new" journalism, not so much.

        • Do you seriously believe that the "new" journalism isn't ad sponsored.

          Some is and some isn't. I'm not for a moment claiming ad revenue is going away (far from it) but the revenue sources are and I think will continue to become much more diverse. The companies getting the big ad revenues are companies like Google which are not media focused rather than the New York Times. The company that controls the platform is separating from the company (or people) that generate the content. Furthermore you have things like Twitter and Facebook that are essentially a form of citizen re

    • by Teun (17872)
      You are onto something but I don't see it quite as bleak.

      Yes investigative journalism has disappeared from mainstream media but it's still available for those knowing the price of quality.

      I don't know enough about Spain but in countries like The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark there is still a group of influential people willing to pay the price for quality papers, be it dead tree or digital.

      The future will tell if this lasts but I am hopeful, I put my money where my mouth is and subscribe to such publi

    • by silfen (3720385)

      the problem of the destruction of journalism is an extremely serious one

      Oh, I agree. I just hope we can overcome those problems and complete the destruction of journalism sooner rather than later.

    • You mention bloggers like it is a bad thing. Well, it is not, and here is why: Bloggers can't stand on their name, so their content (and their sources) has to speak for itself.

      Before the internet people had to blindly trust their news sources. Journalists had their "laws" regarding sources and biases (e.g. require two independent sources, etc), and a good journalist could produce good content. Unfortunately the reader had no way of knowing if a particular journalist followed the "laws", we had to thrust the

    • by matbury (3458347)

      Real journalism is dying without the help of the internet. The news that matters, the news that gets people's attention, the news that affects how people engage in civil society is TV news. It's all been Foxed. No more background, no more historical context, no more broader perspective, no more deep investigating unless it's on a celebrity or other public figure for a nonsense, inconsequential, personal interest piece.

      Yes, newspapers are where most of our TV news originates but those are mired in conflicts

    • ...is "professional journalism", and the "vibrant one" comprises bloggerss, press releases and Google Adwords, yes?

      Professional journalism was dying long before the internet. Papers were spewing out nothing but press releases and rebadged wire stories long before blogging became a thing. The very fact that the newspapers were offering basically nothing is what allowed blogs to eat their lunch so thoroughly.

    • 25 years ago, most "journalism" in newspapers I was dealing with consisted of regurgiutating reuters word-for-word, or putting a reporter's name on press releases.

      By comparison the Internet is a revelation. Not just because you can usually find reserach into what's in the news, but because you can also see behind the press releases and find what's being "spun"

      To steal a line about Usenet: it's like watching a herd of performing elephants at times - capable of bombarding you with mindboggling amounts of excr

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course it's a vibrant industry when you can make money using other people's content...not much overhead in that, is there?

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday August 04, 2014 @12:56PM (#47600769)

    The simplest course of action would be for the major search engines, i.e. Google (there are some others, I'm told) to simply cut those spanish newspapers out of it's web-crawlers and search functions. If there are no links to the newspapers in question, there can be no tax to pay.

    If that means that the online versions of these publications simply cease to exist? Well, that's not the search engines' problem. Would the E.U. then have to instigate a new internet law, to force these sites to be crawled and to force the search engines to do the opposite of forgetting about E.U. citizens and actively "remember" about them.

    I have the impression that the newspapers that were pressing for this law don't realise that, despite what they may think, they really are not in a position of power, apropos the internet.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The proper way is to use robots.txt on the pages or sites to be blocked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They don't want their sites to be blocked.
        They want their sites to be listed, and to be paid for the privilege of letting you list them.

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          Would they expect to pay YOU to run an ad in the paper? No?? where's the difference??

    • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:25PM (#47601003) Homepage Journal

      I have the impression that the newspapers that were pressing for this law don't realise that, despite what they may think, they really are not in a position of power, apropos the internet.

      They want money. Indeed, if I was google my first step would be to de-index those companies, completely. What happens when your traffic drops by 90% and your physical circulation numbers start dropping?

      The proper way to go is the same as TV, radio, and yes, your printed copy - sell advertising so that every time somebody hits your paper they see them. If you're 'good', put the advertising on the same server as the content so ad blockers have a harder time blocking them; making YOUR advertising a selling point. Just don't get so annoying with it that the ad-blockers engage in an active campaign.

      • As someone who has worked in the newspaper industry, the problem is that it's very hard to get advertisers online, and even harder to make money with an online newspaper. The problem is that the advertisers know how much power they have over the paper/website, and will exert it to the fullest extent they can, threatening to drop their ads if they don't get 100% of what they want.

        For instance, the statewide paper in my state gets a lot of advertising from Sleepy's, a big national mattress chain. They used to

        • by ultranova (717540)

          The problem is that when you run a newspaper, you don't run the newspaper - the advertisers are your gods and masters, and you have no say in the matter.

          Which of course makes the newspaper worthless to readers, who'll turn to online sources out of necessity. Let's face it: the industry is obsolete.

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          The problem is that when you run a newspaper, you don't run the newspaper - the advertisers are your gods and masters, and you have no say in the matter.

          You have to avoid becoming dependent upon any one(or smallish cartel) of advertisers then.

          Thought the comment elsewhere of a BBC style organization does seem to have some good points.

        • by alexgieg (948359)

          Here in Brazil the government is the hugest advertiser in most of printed media, to the point of paying for 12-page advertisement at the biggest weekly news magazines for weeks on end. It has progressively forbidden the most lucrative private market companies (tobacco, alcohol, and now going for toys) from advertising due to this or that feel good policy, and so there's no one out there with enough money to pay for their existence other than the government itself, either directly or indirectly through State

      • Ad blockers exist because of noxious adverts (ESPECIALLY animated ones. Noisy flash-based ads are a fast way of getting me to move on quickly (never to return) and I doubt I'm the only one.). Putting them on the same server as the content won't slow Adblock Pro down by more than a couple of seconds while I tune the frames to kill.

        Keep the adverts static and don't annoy me with them. Your content is hardly ever unique, so why should I bother with you if there's a paywall?

        Murketers just "don't get it", but t

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          Putting them on the same server as the content won't slow Adblock Pro down by more than a couple of seconds while I tune the frames to kill.

          Like I said, 'engage in an active campaign' and 'don't annoy'.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:25PM (#47601005) Homepage Journal

      "The simplest course of action would be for the major search engines, i.e. Google (there are some others, I'm told) to simply cut those spanish newspapers out of it's web-crawlers and search functions. If there are no links to the newspapers in question, there can be no tax to pay."
      True but it would mean cutting off links to all spanish newspapers! The law makes the payment mandatory to prevent any forward thinking papers from having an unfair advantage.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe they can pay google to list them.

        • Funnily enough I remember a similar impasse about 30 years ago in New Zealand

          The music labels wanted TV stations to pay royalties for broadcasting top40 countdown and other music programs.

          The TV stations all responded by shutting down their music programs. Music sales plummetted.

          5 months later, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" aired - the first music video on TV for that entire period - and it _only_ aired because the music companies were desperate enough to buy prime time advertising space to play it.

          Music com

      • The law makes the payment mandatory to prevent any forward thinking papers from having an unfair advantage.

        An obvious work around would be to start a Spanish language news website, covering Spanish news, but located outside of Spain. If you had no legal presence in Spain, you could even link to other Spanish news sites without paying the unenforceable link tax.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Spain,

    Meet robots.txt.
    http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html

    Require the newspapers to use the standard to block searching. Otherwise remove the web pages altogether to prevent sharing.

    Problem solved.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Newspapers don't want to avoid their articles being linked.

      They want them to be linked and also want to get paid for being linked.

  • ...is ill defined and short sighted and ends up protecting a dying industry, while undermining a vibrant one. In another case of disrupted industries turning to lawmakers to solve their problems, this one makes no sense at all, especially given the state of the Spanish economy and the fact that it comes 15 years too late to even matter.

    The dying industry tried to hide their biases. Thanks to this new and vibrant community of "editors" who don't care about silly things like journalistic integrity, it's easier than ever for me to just accept whatever outrage the media hands me.

    Thanks, Slashdot, for enabling me to be the lazy American we all make fun of!

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Monday August 04, 2014 @01:56PM (#47601229) Homepage Journal

    About 15 years ago the term 'micro payment' showed up on the internet.
    There where blog posts etc. proclaiming how the 'internet' will change if users, surfers, are able to purchase goods via micro payment solutions. The main problem for paying of small fees at that time was that the minimum fee tompay to a credit card company was somewhere around 3 dollars. So the smallest selling price for something was around 4 dollars. Lets come back to this a at the end of this post.

    Suddenly, around 10 years ago companies, especially the online branch of traditional news papers, like http://www.spiegel.de/ [spiegel.de] decided, we indeed need micro transactions. Or the possibility to 'do micro transactions' .

    Somehow they made a deal with the 'credit card companies' that they could now sell articles in their online store for 1.50 Euro. Only paying 1 Euro to the card company, wow! Micro payment. That did not work out that well.

    Later, not sure what the price is now or if that option for payed browsing still exists on spiegel online, they dropped the price for users browsing an article to 50 cents!

    Isn't that amazing (Steve Jobs :) ) ???

    So, if I buy a magazine in paper form, and pay 4.00 Euros (the equivalent of 8 articles online payed) I can read something like 40 articles or minor reports and some jokes, a few letters to the editor etc. etc.

    Erm ... so I want to save money, time energy, give more money to the publisher (who has not to pay for distribution, printing, billing etc.) and I get less?

    Back to the introduction part: when the term micropayment was coined, perhaps 1995, we talked about prices of 1 cent per article. Not 150cents, not 50cents. We imagined that a user had a contract with a search engine or with his ISP. That he would pay e.g. a yearly fee to use that engine, perhaps 30dollars, that is 30cents per day.
    That perhaps reading an article on a random web site, not limited to 'newspapers' or 'magazines' would yield the hoster 1cent per view.

    So, spiegel online, http://www.spiegel.de/ [spiegel.de] has perhaps 50 million hits per day. Does not matter if it is only 10 per day or even up to 100 million. They have(had?) that subsection where you need to pay 50cents - 150cents to few an (old!) article.

    On the millions of hits they earn nothing, except income via advertizing. The subsection which is paywalled(was?) creates losses.

    If I'm not bad in math the roughly 50 million hits per day would generate 50 million cents per day on income, that is 500,000 euros (per day!). If coming there would be payed via a true micro transaction. It would be super simple to add something into TCP/IP or HTTP that only lets people get onto payed sides if they really want to. I doubt they ever had hits on the paywalled articles worth so much money.

    So, publishers/news sites/magazines spoiled the development of true micro transaction, micropayment systems. They are the reason stuff like Bitcoins got born.

    Now they demand a search engine "tax"? How do they suppose that ever will work? I certainly won't visit any of them regardless what law gymnastics they perform. The next step will, be Tor, Bittorents, secret search engines, deep scanning and copying tools/sites or aggregation sites where people 'forward' news like in twitter or here on /. and the original news sites are completely cut off.

    Don't get me wrong: I have no resentments against magazine publishers. I have nothing against paying for content. But being forced to pay 100 times more for online content - in our aera - than for the exact same content printed and mailed to my house ... Nope!

    The only area where we right now have a very small true 'internet revolution', letting ordinary people publish and sell 'creations' in a way that other ordinary people can 'pay' a 'reasonable' price and finally the original 'creator' gets most of it (not an parasite credit car

    • by tsiv (622512)

      Micro-payments have come to the Internet. Just not through credit cards. Look at any "Free2Play" online game and you can find plenty of micro-payment variants.

      For a non-game implementation, look at Amazon coins. Once you overcome the transactional costs of traditional methods, it's very cheap - fractions of a cent to process. The only efficiency problem with private currencies is the breakage around conversion - usually you can't buy "just one", and if you don't use up all the converted private currency

      • Ome of my points was: micro payment was once meant to be in the cent range.

        Games involving 'micro transactions' still demand payment in the dollar range.

        I'm aware about various 'web coin' payment methods :) And have a nice story to share. I bought 500 web coins in total worth of 5euro from http://web.de/ [web.de] In german we have a system called 'bank draft'. I allow a merchant, in this case Web.de, to draft 5 Euro from my bank account. For that I had to give them my account number basically. Do after the transacti

    • So, publishers/news sites/magazines spoiled the development of true micro transaction, micropayment systems.

      I beg your pardon, but from your very comment I draw the conclusion that the credit card companies spoiled the development of true micro-transactions by demanding a very large amount for each transaction. If they had realized the size of the economies of scale we're talking about here they would have settled for much less than a cent per transaction, but I think that their short-sightedness and greed got in the way.

      • Everyone involved spoiled it.
        There are plenty of other options than credit cards for online payment.

      • Personally, I suspect that, under ideal conditions, it costs more than once cent for the companies to process a transaction. This is especially true if they're to get their cut: it's easy for them to take 3% of a dollar transaction, much harder for a cent transaction.

    • So, if Der Spiegel were to charge one cent per article (and how would that translate into pounds or US dollars?), it would have 500 million individual transactions to keep track of. To make sure they were able to collect. To maintain a complaint system when people argue they misclicked or were improperly billed. This is going to cost more than 500K euros to run.

      Take a look at the App Store: you'll find stuff available for $0.99 and stuff for free, nothing in between. The App Store provides a relativ

      • The problem is not that Der Spiegel overcharged, the problem is that they couldn't charge a reasonable amount.
        Of course, but charging an unreasonable amount ( and Der Spiegel was only a closely grabbed example) did not help either.
        Computing cycles don't cost much. The actual billing software costs the same, regardless if it bills 500.000 accesses per YEAR for 1.5 Euro, or 500.000 accesses per day for 1cent. (Yes, perhaps there was more hardware needed, but I doubt it)

        As long as you don't invest overseas or

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Monday August 04, 2014 @02:03PM (#47601271) Homepage

    The Candlestick Makers' Petition [bastiat.org] by Bastiat:

    We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

    We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Monday August 04, 2014 @02:05PM (#47601293)

    It is rather odd for them to try and tax people for talking about them, which is what this amounts to being. Even worse, they are taxing the people who are polite enough to provide a referential link back that would allow the reader to go to the source which then enables the source to earn something be it reputation, selling something or serving ad copy up which is how newspapers traditionally paid for their paper and ink.

    Myself, I love being linked to. Please, link away because that's how the love is spread and the web grows.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In case you didn't, current spanish goverment is for showing you a carrot and telling you that it is a delicious cucumber.

    The article misses telling you that EVERY publication has the right to collect money for any listing where it shows. Even personal blogs, for example.
    And this is a right you can't opt-out from. I mean: I have the right to collect money from Google because it has some liks to my personal blog. I have the right to collect money from Slashdot because it links to my personal webpage (even th

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Monday August 04, 2014 @03:33PM (#47601895)

    Can't Google just remove the links rather than pay? Wouldn't that hand them an near instant win over this law?

    • Doesn't Google already have policies and practices about linking behind paywalls? I don't think Google will have to do anything new here.

  • Bring me back the old Wall St. Journal...the one where you had to understand the finer points of oragami to fold it so you could read it with one hand, and whose advertizements were for things you could never hope to afford.

    • That's a brilliant hack. If Google (and everyone else) is smarter than the politicians, they simply won't link to the newspapers. The newspapers will get no traffic and therefore no ad revenue, and go out of business. Damn those dastardly webmasters outsmarting the politicians.

      And elsewhere on this page, people are seriously suggesting that these same moron politicians should be running the news outlets.

  • Spain's Spanish Spaniards Tax Taxed Taxpayers (journalists)

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