Towards a State-Run Media

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Via Alan Sullivan, I hear more bad news about the first subject I blogged this year: the metastasis of government "bailouts" to the newspapers. This time we're hearing it from two major markets.

First, we have David Scharfenberg of the Boston Globe asking for the government to subsidize the web presence of existing newspapers. Says Rick Moran of The American Thinker:

This would be a boon to liberal politics since the chances of any group getting this money investigating the Daschels, Geithners, or other Democrats are close to nil.
All I can add to that is that I would not want any government -- especially one, now that I think of it, that paid lip-service to my political beliefs -- controlling the media. Doing so inherently violates individual rights, and is therefore contrary to the proper purpose of a government.

And just wait for the government to force everybody to take some of the money, as it did with the banks, and then tell them how to do business just as it has and plans to more of with the banks. (How the hell is capping executive pay supposed to encourage better performance? Oh, right. "Better"? For whom and by what standard?)

And then we have the parent company of two papers in Philadelphia (of all places!) begging the governor of Pennsylvania for a bailout. This one provoked one of the better reactions from a newspaper I have seen to this dangerous trend so far. It appears in the Wall Street Journal:
[N]ewspapers aren't the lifeblood of anything if they are merely an adjunct of the state. Independent journalism is valuable, but only if it is truly independent. A newspaper that is bankrolled by the state, even if it's only a loan, is going to have a strong interest in not criticizing the state. Perhaps this is one of Mr. Rendell's goals, since like all politicians he prefers a favorable press.

The business of journalism is changing, and many newspapers will vanish in the coming months and years. But that doesn't mean that journalism itself is vanishing. TV, radio and national newspapers have an audience in Philadelphia. Smaller papers like the Bulletin are also working hard to reach a larger audience in the city. Internet news operations have popped up in Minneapolis, San Diego and other places, often started by former reporters for the big-city dailies. The fastest way to kill a newspaper is to make it dependent on the politicians it is supposed to cover. [bold added]
The last thing we need is for the government to stifle what little good journalism there still is in the newspapers.

-- CAV


Burgess Laughlin said...

Forty and more years ago, I heard calls--not for the mere giving of subsidies to newspapers--but for their outright seizure by government. The call was for socialism.

I hope that weblog writers today will be able to follow the "trajectory" of these new proposals for subsidies. The fate of these proposals is important, of course, but a close look at the nature and amount of the opposition to them might actually be more revealing about the state of our culture.

Anyone can propose statist projects. Who stands up against them, and what reasons they offer, is a check of the pulse of the culture.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Forty and more years ago, I heard calls--not for the mere giving of subsidies to newspapers--but for their outright seizure by government."

As unhappy as I am to see this happening now, it is heartening that we have survived outright calls for nationalization before. (I have either never heard of that or had forgotten it.)

On the other hand, this time, the takeover is unprincipled and, by that very fact, not so obviously bad to many. And even opponents may oppose it on merely pragmatic grounds, which is to say: not in any meaningful sense.