Monday, September 21, 2009

All the News (we think) Is Fit to Print

Incredibly, President Barak Obama seems to be mulling over yet another bailout of a special category of business which is currently floundering as it fails to come to grips with changes in technology and how its product is consumed.

What’s most ironic: News of this next potential business bailout comes after the President’s record round of Sunday News Show visits yesterday...and a much-heralded appearance tonight with David Letterman.

According to a piece in The, Mr. Obama is now open to a newspaper bailout bill, saying he’d be "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses. Which is a pretty interesting concept, because, if the news organizations’ balance sheets are to be believed, many of them already are non-profit organiztions, bleeding money and mostly red ink.

According to The Hill's report, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations.

Two questions immediately spring to mind: Why do newspapers need to be bailed out...and why should your tax dollars so be expended? How objective do you believe a news gathering organization would be if its livelihood depended upon tax dollars for survival? And if you think it’s too far-fetched to believe the Government would play favorites, consider that of all the network news shows on which Mr. Obama appeared yesterday, the only one that did not score a guest slot with the Leader of the Free World was the FOX News Network—the same network that chose to air “So You Think You Can Dance” instead of the president’s address to a joint session of Congress.
Paybacks, perhaps?
As that network likes to challenge, "you decide."

How comfortable are you that the Government now owns or controls most of the banks in America, has its own automobile manufacturer, and would now be a controlling factor in the fifth estate of America—the one which is charged with disseminating truthful accounts of what’s going in this country? Not that all news companies are lilly-white in their pursuit of journalistic integrity; but they are doing so without the yoke of federal funding suggesting how deeply to dig on stories that could be revealing of Administration policies that are less than popular with the public.

Mr. Obama has said that good journalism is "critical to the health of our democracy…" He’s also uneasy about perceived tends in reporting -- especially on political blogs, from which a groundswell of support for his campaign emerged during the presidential election.

The President said he is “concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding…"

A valid point. But how much serious fact-checking or proper contextual balance do you think you’re going to achieve when those groups are reticent to bite the Federal hand that’s feeding them? Implicit with the right to pursue happiness is the right to fail.

There is a Darwinian balance in the universe that mandates survival of the most-economically fit, and if the public’s not buying what’s being sold, no amount of government support is going to change it. In fact, bailouts of newspapers could make things worse, if the perception becomes the government is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

General Motor’s acquisition by the government is no guarantee of its success—a car company that was losing market share because no one wanted what it was making. Now, there is a level of public resentment that the government is enabling the company to continue to make what no one is wanting.

Repeating the mistake does not mean the outcome will be different. And isn’t that the definition of insanity?

No comments: