Economics

Help Me, Obama-wan-Kenobi, You're Our Newspapers' Only Hope!

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What did I tell you people? I told you people "Mark my words: This will not be the last time you hear about newspaper bailouts. Not if journalists have anything to say about it."

Cue Providence Journal layoffee David Scharfenberg, and his Boston Globe-published proposal "to preserve the sort of journalism that keeps our democracy afloat":

Gladly_pay_Wednesday_for_a_bailout_Tuesday

Congress, intent on jump-starting the economy, should set aside $100 million—well under 1 percent of the stimulus approved by the House of Representatives and pending in the Senate—for a national journalism fund.

The cash would seed low-cost, Internet-based news operations in cities large and small—combining vigorous, professional reporting with blogging, video posts, citizen journalism, and aggregation of stories from other sources.

Wait, if it's low cost, why don't some of the same people who believe (wrongly) that print-on-pulp "keeps our democracy afloat" just pony up some of their own cash and get busy?

[A] scattershot approach, dependent upon the largess of a few well-heeled donors and foundations, is no way to tend to a major pillar of our civil society. We need a big, bold investment in the new journalism. And it is hard to imagine anyone other than the federal government providing loads of start-up cash, particularly in the midst of a recession.

Bailout logic really knows no bounds. Those of you non-newspaper journalists out there who care about the First Amendment will be happy to note that Scharfenberg does make the following grudging acknowledgment:

Indeed, an independent press cannot be entirely beholden to government funding.

Ya think?

Link via Romenesko.

NEXT: French Press: Good Coffee, Bad Policy

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  1. “What did I tell you people?”

    OK, Matt, you are more fucking prescient than David Fucking Broder and Patrick Fucking Moynihan (before he was dead) put together! Now shut the fuck up!

  2. The cash would seed low-cost, Internet-based news operations in cities large and small – combining vigorous, professional reporting with blogging, video posts, citizen journalism, and aggregation of stories from other sources.

    It already exists. They’re called youtube and google blogs. Turns out, plenty of amatures are willing to report and analyze news for free, and they do as well a job as the typical journalist.

  3. Ugh. I have seen the future, and it is government-funded blogging.

    Most likely the private non-for-profit news-junkie kind will always be better, but that won’t stop the New New York Times from becoming a monolithic web-dominating organization, which maintains it’s presense and influence not through superior commentary (lord knows it ain’t), but by receiving the biggest endowment from the state. It’ll become like the web version of NPR.

    I’d much rather see journalism carried out by free-lancers. I tend to think the web will evolve it’s own mechanisms for fighting ideological bias and estblish some mechanism for vetting independent journalists.

    You do kind of see this happening a bit with blogs sorting themselves out into more reputable and less partisan categories. Not everyone listens to the echo chambers.

  4. Indeed, an independent press cannot be entirely beholden to government funding.

    Only taking a little government funding is like only being a little pregnant. Ask any university, college or “independent” school district.

  5. Government journalists. Terrific.

    This would cause a civil war within the ranks, though. No way in hell I’d work for a government-funded newspaper or pretend to respect the work of a government journalist or even drink with one, unless he was buying.

    As for — “Turns out, plenty of amatures are willing to report and analyze news for free, and they do as well a job as the typical journalist.” — you really believe this? It seems to me that most might misspell “amateurs” and confuse “well” and “good.” Or was that MEANT to be a joke?

  6. “to preserve the sort of journalism that keeps our democracy afloat”

    What kind would that be?

  7. So the Seattle P/I (if they don’t get a buyer in about 45 days) would probably get bailed out, but the weekly standard…nah. That’s how it’s going to play, right? Maybe Blago should be in charge of this.

  8. So, let me get this straight. If you were to write for, say, “a widely-read libertarian culture site”, then you’d be entitled to a lifetime salary and pension? With access to private jets?

  9. Most of us love the new era of free lance blogging at no cost to the tax payer. What we have is so much greater than what we had 30 years ago

  10. Great. State-run media.

    I guess all we need is the rationing and we’re full commie!

    Huzzah!

    I hate life…

  11. All right, I can’t wait to start my rent-seeking do-nothing blog about my 200K population semi-rural midwestern town. I’ll take pictures of the WPA 2.0 digging holes and them filling them in my neighborhood.

    Honest question: would this help bring down the leviathan or encourage its expansion?

  12. As a newspaper man myself, I can only say:
    IF I GO, YOU’RE ALL GOIN’ DOWN, MUTHAFUCKAS!!!!!!

    Actually, my job is definitely in jeopardy. I’ve got a kid about to go to college, a mortgage, a car loan and a little debt, and you don’t see me whining like a little bitch to get bailed out.
    Fuck this dicktwister.
    And let me posit this: If newspaper journalism dies, then only the reporters worth their salt will remain employed.
    I plan to be one of those reporters.

  13. “Great. State-run media.

    I guess all we need is the rationing and we’re full commie!”

    When all the Wal-Mart stores signes get changed to “GUM”, you’ll know we’re there!

  14. “”Turns out, plenty of amatures are willing to report and analyze news for free, and they do as well a job as the typical journalist.” — you really believe this?”

    Most of the economics blogs I read are 10x better than Paul Krugman’s column in the NYT. Though those blogs probably make money through advertising.

  15. Go away Vanneman.

    Now that that’s out of the way…

    Government + Journalism = ?

    I can’t think of what the answer is… it’s on the tip of my tongue…

  16. I would honestly like to know, is it nothing more than a token of conservation or nostalgia that Newspapers specifically are necessary to a healthy democracy, or do these defenders of the medium actually have a substantive argument for why NEWSPAPERS in particular, rather than the myriad other places Americans can get their information from, are the very foundation of a free society. And for that matter, if citizens shouldn’t be expected to participate in the choice of the information they gather, why should they be expected to care whether or not the system that enables such an exercise of choice withers.

  17. I would like to state for the record that Marmaduke is the pinnacle of human culture and must be preserved at all cost.

  18. If I encourage my wife to cancel her NYT subscription, would I be in part responsible for the newspaper bailout?

  19. Hazel
    It’ll become like the web version of NPR.

    Bingo. Reason enough to fight this idiotic idea tooth and nail.

  20. I’d much rather see journalism carried out by free-lancers. I tend to think the web will evolve it’s own mechanisms for fighting ideological bias and estblish some mechanism for vetting independent journalists.

    I don’t see why journalism can’t do exactly what it does now, except in smaller, more specialized niches. Does one organization need a bureau in every city of every country in the world? Or can we have hundreds of organizations sharing a network of bureaus all over the world?

  21. Paul: exactly. The affiliate model would be perfect for regional papers.

    Also no reason why newspaper websites can’t contain eclusive video content on their websites.

  22. The central issue is NOT about newspaper viability. Newspapers will go a quiet death in the next 10-15 years.
    The central issue is the business model or models that will develop in the age of instantaneous and ubiquitous media.

  23. I don’t think my tax dollars should be used to bail out newspapers. I favor legal prostitution, and I think whores deserve to be compensated for their labor just like anybody else, but let’s let the Democratic party pay for its own goddamned blow jobs, you know?

  24. The central issue is NOT about newspaper viability. Newspapers will go a quiet death in the next 10-15 years.

    Oh god, please don’t tell me it’s going to take that long. So we have to hear this pretentious what-about-my-needs whining for the next decade-and-a-half?

  25. Also no reason why newspaper websites can’t contain eclusive video content on their websites.

    Nearly all of them can and do. Fuck, we’ve got more video at http://www.missoulian.com. than the local fucking TV news.
    But the people who tend toward the Internet version of newspapers also tend NOT to be subscribers.
    Internet advertising does not support the existing business structure of newspapers.

  26. Is it bad that I hear The Imperial March in my head everytime I read one of these posts?

  27. So we have to hear this pretentious what-about-my-needs whining for the next decade-and-a-half?

    Maybe. But you’ll be hearing it from fewer and fewer people.

  28. “Is it bad that I hear The Imperial March in my head everytime I read one of these posts?”

    No see, *this time* we’ll have the right people in charge! The newspapers will report in the best interests of The People, while being Fair and Balanced.

    Now be a good boy and help democracy by reading pro-government fluff.

  29. Cue Providence Journal layoffee David Scharfenberg, and his Boston Globe-published proposal “to preserve the sort of journalism that keeps our democracy afloat”:

    Considering that in the recent presidential election, it was pretty clear most journalists were effectively acting as walking campaign ads for a certain candidate, I submit that preserving this sort of journalism is more of a hinderance to democracy than a help.

  30. I submit that preserving this sort of journalism is more of a hinderance to democracy than a help.

    He did say _our_ democracy, not yours.

  31. Maybe. But you’ll be hearing it from fewer and fewer people.

    Hmm, according to what we’re seeing, we’ll be hearing it from more and more people. To wit:

    Cue Providence Journal layoffee David Scharfenberg, and his Boston Globe-published proposal “to preserve the sort of journalism that keeps our democracy afloat”:

    The logic seems to flow as thus: As more and more journalists get laid off, more and more screaming will ensue from more and more of these “layoffee’s”.

  32. I am a print journalist.
    So please excuse this irony: “Fuck print journalists.”

  33. Left and right biases matter far less than pro-government biases. That’s one of the biggest darts I toss NPR’s way. It has made some effort to avoid too much of an obvious leftish slant (well, pre-Obama, anyway), but it has made no effort to avoid viewing everything through the Washington prism.

    Unfortunately, the same can be said of the private news media. Whether a particular paper or television network has a leftwards or rightwards leaning has no bearing on their often pro-government positions. To me, the political press serves no purpose if it doesn’t have, no matter who is in office, a generally anti-government slant.

  34. I’ll take government funding for my work at the newspaper when they pry it into my cold, dead hands!

    Hmm. That could use some work.

  35. I was employed at the same newspaper chain, in the same state, as Jamie Kelly. Until I got downsized 3 weeks ago.

    I would point out that if we really had a free-market economy, Mary Junck’s punishment for running Lee Enterprises into the ground by loading up with a debt level that almost ensures a Chapter 11 filing and for presiding over a 99% decline in shareholder value would *not* be getting her pay frozen at $850,000/year, but by being fired yesterday.

    That said, I am united with Jamie in horror at the idea of newspapers getting a Treasury-funded bailout.

  36. I want some of that money too. No particular reason. I promise to spend it.

  37. Let’s hope Jennifer replies to the Globe to set that nitwit straight.

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