Using Freedom to Fund Newspapers?

It's a Maureen Dowd column, so not to be taken seriously, but check out the latest Big Idea for Saving Our Newspapers:

Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns The Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, proposed to Forbes that the federal government could save newspapers by allowing sports betting on newspaper Web sites.

"It would take Congressional legislation and the willingness on the part of the government to confront gambling and casino interests that have blocked this," he said. "Newspaper owners have never gotten together to lobby for this because they have always been quite profitable. Those days are behind us."

I tracked down Zuckerman in Jerusalem on Tuesday to ask him about it. "Newspapers are so critical for public dialogue and holding public officials responsible," he told me. "And who's going to be able to afford original reporting in the next five years? Very, very few."

He said some British newspapers make millions on betting games like Bingo. "People are spending money on what is basically a social vice anyhow," he said. "So why not use it to preserve the First Amendment? It's not a perfect solution, but it is a solution." [...]

Nick Pileggi, who wrote the books and screenplays for "Goodfellas" and "Casino," sees no downside. "It would be a wonderful, huge blow against organized crime because the money would be taken out of what the mob gets," he said. "And every state has a lottery so nobody from the state is going to stand up and say 'We're against gambling.'"

He said that if newspapers would stop being so stuffy, they could set up A.T.M.-style machines in lobbies and at newsstands and "take over a business that the mob now does illegally worth $20 to $40 billion a year."

Or, you know, you could legalize online gambling because it shouldn't be illegal in the first place, regardless of how the newspaper industry is doing this year.

For the definitive piece about "the strangely selective and self-defeating crackdown on Internet gambling," consult this June 2008 piece by Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum. And watch here how Jesus himself disapproves of criminalizing nonviolent recreation.

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  • Rich||

    "So why not use it to preserve the First Amendment?"

    What the hell -- use it to preserve the Second and Fourth Amendments, too.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Allowing anonymous gun sales through First Class Mail to be advertised in the classified sections of the New York Times could save the 2nd Amendment.

  • Bergholt Stuttley Johnson||

    Also the Third, maybe?

  • Rich||

    Don't be ridiculous.

  • ||

    How does that woman still have a job?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    She is kind of cute for a woman her age. That must be it.

  • ||

    She's the voice of a menopausal nation.

    They aren't hot flashes... THEY'RE ENERGY SURGES!

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Her power is projected through her long red nails into her global communicator, an IBM Selectric.

  • ||

    Anybody else see a whole Dowd as Faye Dunaway in Supergirl connection?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Well, no but I think you are the best bet here to already have a picture of that in your collection.

  • ||

    Actually, "Mommie Dearest" comes to mind: A dried-up, self-absorbed harpy doomed to eventual obscurity.

  • ||

    Little googling has shown me the hair's not quite right.

  • ||

    I look at the glammed up pictures of Dowd and think two words, grudge ..." I will let you fill in the rest. In person absent makeup she is probably too scary even for a drunken one of those. But, in a picture combined with her annoying whining it kind of works.

  • ||

    Grudge dinner? Where you take her out for a nice meal and insult her?

  • John Tagliaferro||

    What is with theses crazy freaks in the newspaper business? Even my wildest speculaion was mild compared to som of the recent stories.

  • ||

    So the latest plan is to give newspapers a monopoly on a lucrative and totally unrelated business line.

    That's so stupid I think its inevitable.

  • Grandpa Whithers||

    FTW!

  • Boston||

    consider that shit stolen

  • ||

    So why not use it to preserve the First Amendment?

    People not buying newspapers is not a violation of the 1st Amendment.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    That's racist.

  • ||

    I agree. I'm sure Kerry will be by any moment to nag me about it.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    'tis also low-brow and redneck, trailerpark, and that other teabagger stuff.

  • ||

    So if I wanted to start a legal sports betting ring, all I would have to do is start a newspaper website?

  • ||

    Yep. And all the online sites would just have to start sending out fluff papers to their members. You know, "lines this week," a look at the games ahead.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Like The Daily Racing Form?

    Guessing they are already in the black anyway and they are the brand most serious gamblers kno already.

  • ||

    Yeah, this should have all sorts of unintended consequences - right up the governments alley. Nevermind that there should be no laws whatsoever regarding gambling or other "vices".

  • Warty||

    "The newspaper business" = "The First Amendment"? Believe it or not, it's true. For your homework, I want you to prove it by induction.

  • Bergholt Stuttley Johnson||

    I love how a screenwriter for mafia movies is quoted as an authority on sports betting. Perhaps in her next columns she could as Robert Downey Jr. about Af-Pak policy.

  • Bergholt Stuttley Johnson||

    "ask RWJ about Af-Pak", I meant.

  • robc||

    Im all for allowing sports betting on newspaper websites, as long as anyone can then start a "newspaper" (distribution range, my office) and have betting on their website too.

    Then again, why create that hoop?

  • Xeones||

    Then again, why create that hoop?

    For The Children. Did you have to ask?

  • ||

    I suspect that, instead of having the newspapers take over a business now in the domain of the Mafia, the newspapers will start, in competition for additional revenue, behave like the Mafia themselves.

    Not that they don't already, of course, just now it'll be more obvious.

  • ||

    Newspapers are so critical for public dialogue and sucking holding public officials responsible, off.

    FTFY

  • Colin||

    If this came to fruition, what would be funny would be the endless newspaper stories telling us how newspapers are destroying the lives of addicted gamblers.

    Also, if the mafia can take over a casino, why couldn't they take over a newspaper?

  • ||

    "And every state has a lottery so nobody from the state is going to stand up and say 'We're against gambling.'"

    Why so naive? Deval Patrick, MA governor, proposed to open brick-and-mortar casinos in Massachusetts and make online gambling a crime punishable by up to two years in prison. In the same bill.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Yeah, I'm in Philly and people are *freaking out* about casinos here. It turns into this, like, "the people in the community deserve a say in what other people do in our neighborhoods" bitch-a-thon. So tiresome.

  • Isaac Bartram||

    Hey, the Mafiagovernment is all about putting the competition out of business.

  • ||

    Back in the day Operas used to sit next to casinos. The business models fed on each other. People would show up to see a show and do some gambling before or after. It made both businesses more profitable.

    So, I don't think this is quite such a crazy idea. People like to go online and read newspapers and gamble. So why not let them do both in the same place?

    My problem with the idea is that it does what we always do with gambling. Rather than just legalizing it, we turn it into a trust for political chronies. State and local gambling initiatives always say "we will legalize it but only our chronies who paid us a lot of money can run a casino", which is complete bullshit.

  • Grandpa Whithers||

    Is this still occuring today? If not, why not?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Buy this paper or Guido will breaka you leg.

    "And who's going to be able to afford original reporting in the next five years? Very, very few."

    Imagine how original it will be when the mafia owns it.

    Me, I just want a law passed against people reading f***ing newspapers in airplanes. What's the deal? It's always somebody 60 or older, and they gotta spread out and take up all three seats. "Make room! I'm reading the f***ing paper and that's IMPORTANT!"

    Legislation reads: if any passenger on a flight within US airspace shall find another passenger reading a F***ING newspaper on an airplane, they shall have the right to immediately toss that passenger out the back door.

    Airlines shall hereby provide a back door through which violators may be summarily tossed over board.

    There, got that off my chest. Now I feel so much better.

  • ||

    "Buy this paper or Guido will breaka you leg.

    "And who's going to be able to afford original reporting in the next five years? Very, very few."

    Imagine how original it will be when the mafia owns it."

    I think the mafia owning it might be an improvement. At the very least, they would develop a more hostile relationship with law enforcement.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    likes this.

  • ||

    Not all states have a lottery. Alabama does have charitable electronic Bingo. In the counties that draft laws to allow it. Usually with a mandate of at least 1000 machines. And usually allowing only one charitable bingo hall. But it's all on the up and up. And it's for the kids of course.

  • ||

    Hawaii has no legal gambling of any kind. No bingo, no lottery, no racetrack/offtrack betting. Plenty of illegal sports books and poker games though. It's more blatant here than anywhere else I've ever lived. Oh, also, a large industry which specializes with flights to Vegas.

  • Warty||

    State and local gambling initiatives always say "we will legalize it but only our chronies who paid us a lot of money can run a casino", which is complete bullshit.

    There's one of these on the ballot in Cleveland right now. I can't decide if increase in freedom to do something I don't want to do is worth the increased crookedness.

  • ||

    Can you really have sports betting without a side business in loansharking? Krugman whipping his Nobel around like a flail trying to collect on nytfan233456 comes to mind.

  • Ska||

    So placing bets I can't afford would give me a chance to beat the shit out of Krugman?

  • ||

    Yep. It's a whole new world.

  • Mad Max||

    'Also, if the mafia can take over a casino, why couldn't they take over a newspaper?'

    It would certainly spice up the obituary pages.

    'Johnny "The Stoolie" Onofrio, former Mafia member and federal informant, died tomorrow from an overdose of lead. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the Stop Snitching Foundation.'

  • ||

    That's LMAO material. Thanks for the guffaws!

  • ||

    "died tomorrow"

    ha ha ha ha ha

  • Mad Max||

    And they could reverse the decline in advertising revenue which newspapers have been complaining about.

    'Ya know, Mr. Jones, me and my associate Guido are aware of how convenience-store owners like yourself are struggling in these economic times. What with flagging demand, inflation, distribution delays due to truck hijackings, and the recent plague of kneecap-breakings, profits in your industry are down. Why not purchase advertising in our newspaper, the Legitimate Businessman's Daily? I forsee that buying these ads will reverse your declining profits.'

  • Abdul||

    the federal government could save newspapers by allowing sports betting on newspaper Web sites. . . . He said that if newspapers would stop being so stuffy, they could set up A.T.M.-style machines in lobbies and at newsstands and "take over a business that the mob now does illegally worth $20 to $40 billion a year."

    And since the auto industry is in trouble, why not let them pimp out the auto show models?

    Ya know, the housing industry is in trouble. Why not let realtors deal in kiddie porn? Otherwise, you're just leaving it to the pedophiles to run.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Hey I think you're onto something. Ever consider running for public office?

  • ||

    Or just mandate that everyone has to buy a newspaper with a subsidy for the poor.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Guido is gonna break your leg.

    Nothing personal, it's just business.

  • ||

    "And every state has a lottery so nobody from the state is going to stand up and say 'We're against gambling.'"

    That's funny.

  • DJF||

    I am sure that Mortimer Zuckerman wants to limit this gambling privilege to only “legitimate” newspapers. Legitimate being newspapers which have a wide ranging editorial position ranging from, bombing/bailing out Zuckerman enemies/friends tomorrow, bombing/bailing out Zuckerman enemies/friends today, bombing/bailing out Zuckerman enemies/friends yesterday, today and tomorrow.

    Anyone not in favor of bombing/bailing out Zuckerman’s enemies/friends is out of the mainstream and does not get their gambling license

  • PR||

    why not start printing newspapers on rolling papers? a Modiano version of the NYT.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    I was thinking the same thing.

    If you rolled your joint in pages from the NYT then you wouldn't be busted.

    And why not allow the online sites for newspapers to run ads for meth and other drugs too?

    Make them money and cut into the profits of organized crime. Win-Win!

  • ||

    Why not allow consensual, victimless activities that are currently crimes to be legalized if they are advertised solely through "newspapers"? Prostitution, gambling, drug sales, etc.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    I see their secret agenda. They seek to destroy Craigslist.

  • ||

    What insidious brilliance!

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Or, you know, you could legalize online gambling because it shouldn't be illegal in the first place, regardless of how the newspaper industry is doing this year"

    Indeed - and if it is to be done there is no reason why the newspaper industry should be granted a government guaranteed monopoly on the business.

  • ||

    Maybe Dowd can start using her columns for horse racing betting tips. It can't be any worse than what she already does.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The only words that should ever appear on any Dowd column is "this side up" - a handy tip for lining the birdcage.

  • ||

    They will dictate the speech like they are trying to dictate the speech of TARP users.
    Newspapers should have the pricing strategy of 5-10 free articles a day and the consumer gets to pick which one. Or a dollar a day and the consumer can read that paper perpetuity. Or a 50 a year and they have all access to the content past and present.

  • Tyler||

    Sometimes I think the the only reason politicians "allow" us any freedom at all is because it gives them more money to give away to their buddies who help them get and keep power.

    Eh, who am I kidding, I ALWAYS think that...

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