Newspaper Bailout Watch


From George Will's column today:

Brian Tierney is CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, which publishes Philadelphia's Inquirer and Daily News and has missed loan payments since June. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's spokesman says Tierney has had "a number of conversations" with Rendell about receiving state money that "could come from a number of revenue streams."

The Wall Street Journal designated this "the worst bailout idea so far" and "nuts in eight different ways," noting that the investors Tierney led in purchasing the two newspapers put up only 20 percent in equity, making them typical of "Americans who borrowed too heavily during the credit mania." In response to Rendell's spokesman saying that newspapers are "the lifeblood of democracy," the Journal said "newspapers aren't the lifeblood of anything if they are merely an adjunct of the state" and are "dependent on the politicians [they are] supposed to cover."

In a remarkably maladroit letter to the Journal, Tierney said "the overwhelming majority of our employees"—truck drivers, advertising salespeople, etc.—whose jobs would be saved by government money "have no influence on the editorial content" of the papers. So: Even if the papers' survival, and therefore the jobs of reporters and editorial writers, would depend on the government's good will, the papers would remain independent because reporters and editorialists are a minority of the papers' employees. Good grief.

In related news, Salon's Gary Kamiya warns that "If newspapers die, so does reporting," and therefore "subsidizing newspapers may be the only answer":

The brave new media world will be one of tunnel vision and self-selected expertise, in which reported pieces are increasingly devoid of human interaction or human stories, often written by individuals who do not pretend to have a neutral stance.

Let me repeat that ID: Salon's Gary Kamiya….

My takes on newspaper bailouts here and here and here.

UPDATE: Oh look: Washington newspapers seek temporary exemption from business tax. I wonder what their editorial positions have been up to this point on special-interest corporate tax breaks?