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  • Who Wants Yesterday’s Papers?

    A Senate bill to bail out America’s newspapers, after languishing all summer like so much fishwrap, gained street cred over the weekend when President Barack Obama said he’d “be happy” to consider the measure.

    The legislation in question would allow failing newspapers to seek the protection of tax-exempt, non-profit status. “I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet,” Obama told four reporters and editors from the Toledo Blade and Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, “but I’ll be happy to look at them.”

    The president’s obliging offer came during a 25-minute softball interview in the Oval Office for stories in the Sunday editions of the sister papers to advance next weekend’s G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

    The newspaper bailout bill introduced last spring by Sen. Ben Cardin had attracted exactly one co-sponsor: fellow Baltimore Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Probably because most senators still understand that, unlike the so-called separation of church and state,  separation of press and state (that is, freedom of the press) actually is in the Constitution.

    “Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it’s paid for, is really a challenge,” Obama said, perhaps figuring flattery would get him somewhere. “But it’s something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy.”

    If the federal government subsidized newspapers that otherwise would have gone out of business for lack of advertisers and readers, though, Americans could say goodbye to any expectation that their local paper serves the public interest. As I’ve written (here and here), newspaper owners, to keep tax-exempt status, would have to bow to federal prohibitions on traditional watchdog functions. Such as holding politicians accountable and endorsing candidates for office.

    Could it be Obama sees nothing unethical in the “fact-based” and “serious investigative” reporting by the Old Media that covers name-calling but not both sides to disagreements on health care, federal spending and global warming? How about “journalistic integrity” that neglects to explore the resumes and records of Van Jones and other policy czars? That steers clear of the practices of taxpayer-funded activist group ACORN — until shamed by two 20-something amateurs with a hidden camera?

    Back in May, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs brushed off the idea that his boss would include newspapers among American institutions that are too big to fail. “I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it,” Gibbs replied to a CNN reporter’s question about the Boston Globe and other papers in crisis, calling it “a bit of a tricky area to get into.”
    Obama seemed to tell a different story Friday before taking over the major Sunday morning talk shows — well, all but Fox’s — on the way to his grueling Monday session with David Letterman. ( “I think it’s important to realize,” the president told an adoring Dave, “that I was actually black before the election.” )

    Obama assured the newspapermen:

    I am 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.”

    Obama, Cardin and fellow liberals already must miss the “mutual understanding” they had with the rapidly fading Old Media. Who wouldn’t miss tough questions like these, lobbed by the hard-bitten Blade and Post-Gazette scribes during those precious 25 minutes in the Oval Office:

    • After years of being back and forth between Chicago and D.C. and on the [campaign] trail, how does it feel to be with your family most nights?
    • Do you help your daughters with their homework?
    • What was it like playing basketball with Tyler Hansbrough and his University of North Carolina teammates during the campaign? Who do you play here in Washington?
    • President Bush biked a lot. Do you exercise daily?

    Now there’s a serious attempt to put a story in context.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Who Wants Yesterday’s Papers?

    1. Whicket Williams Kin says:

      We must eliminate the career politician. This is the only way we are going to get any elected official to respond to the will of the people. They see that with the money and the media, they get re-elected no matter what they do. The only way to fight this entrenched corruption is with the greatest grass roots movement in history. Pick out someone you know and trust, talk them into running, and make sure they win. Make sure YOUR local career politician bites the dust. ALL politics are local. Blog like crazy, network, make sure this happens LOCALLY all across America

    2. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      It is already established the administration has no shame. It is already established they mean to tax, borrow, and spend – no matter the long-term costs to America. So much for protecting "her".

      Now, the POTUS has the apparent audacity to do what is essentially a "bailout" for private news (if he can get away with it)?

      Well, yes he does. I guess that falls under the "Audacity of Hope".

    3. Fran Coombs, Crofton says:

      All the taxpayer money in the world won't be able to keep the "dead-tree" media alive. As if their mode of delivery wasn't prehistoric enough, their content continues to reflect an era when they were the only game in town. So they could shade the news and even hold stories indefinitely, and no one was the wiser. Those days are over, as anyone with a computer and cable television can attest. Obama played those reporters as the master politician he is. He won't waste a dime on newspapers 'cause he needs that money elsewhere.

    4. Michael in Clarksvil says:

      When the media don't do their job by asking the hard questions, then we might as be living in Russia or china. These are very dangerous times indeed. Ask John Bolton, former UN ambassador. He knows the bad actors of the world and he also knows that a syncophatic media puts us all at risk.

    5. John, Massachusetts says:

      The author should know that the term Separation of Church and State is a metaphor used to describe the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment. To claim that Separation of Church and state is not in the Constitution is patently false.

      James Madison was Chairman of the Committee who wrote the 1st Amendment. I wonder if the author will admit that Madison might be an authority on what it means.

      "Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Gov't in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history (James Madison, Detached Memoranda, circa 1820).

    6. JH Crofton says:

      I don't have the answer for newpapers, but for sure business as we have known it in our lifetime is over. I stopped getting a daily paper mostly because the content kept shrinking. Entire sections were being axed. The internet is a giant free-for-all at the moment, but it will be harnessed and made viable by some forward thinkers soon. In the meantime, i continue to click, and click, going down rabbit holes and blind alleys. Oftentimes the journey is fun though.

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