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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Newspapers Next In Line for Bailout Funds

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One of government's harshest critics might be  latest contestant in the Bailout Sweepstakes - Newspapers.

I was catching up with one of my old friends from journalism school and he predicted newspapers would be the next in line for government help, if the  auto bailout is granted. We chuckled, but today, his prediction is close to becoming a reality. State representative Frank Nicastro is begging the state of Connecticut to save the Bristol Press and New Britain's paper, The Herald.

Nicastro claims print media, particularly local papers, are still a vital component of American media, because it provides news that's "ignored by big papers,television and radio stations."

I worked at a local paper, and I'll be the first to tell you that a government-funded bailout, at the state or federal level, is NOT the solution. A government-funded press isn't a free press, and it won't fulfill its duty to cover the government without any influence. Once D.C. or your state starts throwing cash at your newspaper, they'll be obligated to return the favor.

Paul Janensch, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and a former reporter, agrees with my stance. He told Reuters,
"You can't expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it,"

If Nicastro is succesful in his attempt to take  taxpayer money, it's only a matter of time before the major publishers head to capital hill for a  slice of the federal pie.

Author Hugo Black said that criticism of government finds sanctuary in several portions of the 1st Amendment. It is part of the right of free speech. It embraces freedom of the press.

In Rueter's same article, Marc Levy, executive editor of the Herald and the Press, claimed that objectivity won't be sacrificed, and it will be business as usual.

 

It's the brutal reality. You'd say, 'thank you very much for helping me with that, but now we have to ask you about this thing.'

 

media political donationsAnother key fact to consider is that mulitiple surveys revealed  the vast majority of print journalists who donate to politicians favor the Democratic Party. (Including a survey by NBC) Remember that the Democrat party that will have executive power and an expanded presence in congress this year.

Do you honestly think that major publishers, such as Gannett, will use an objective approach toward a government that's putting food on their table?
Print publishers and editors can claim they're victims of circumstance,but so can  everyone else in this economy.

Maybe if those newsroom executives had prioritized online publishing before the major shift occurred, they wouldn't be in the dire situation they now face.

I hate to see ANY newspapers close their doors, but I also don't want to the government play favorites with handouts, and if I wanted state-run media, I would move to Cuba or North Korea.  Newspapers need to search for creative solutions,such as the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post's shared content agreement,which is one step in the right direction.

By Matt O'Hern at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

(1) Thoughts on Newspapers Next In Line for Bailout Funds

Matt,

I couldn't agree with you more. Any press that is paid for is not a free press. That's true even of mainstream newspapers. You rarely see coverage critical of local grocery chains, department stores and auto dealers. That's because those entities buy the bulk of ads.

It should be noted that the Connecticut situation does not involve an outright bailout, however Nicastro is trying to get the state's economic development agency to buck up some funds to help find a buyer for The Bristol Press and others.

Comments by Lance Jungmeyer : Tuesday, January 06, 2009 at 12:51 PM

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