Economics

Newspaper Bailout Watch

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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? 

NEXT: Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Troop Levels Are Rising

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  1. “often written by individuals who do not pretend to have a neutral stance.”

    holy shit, you mean we’ll lose all of those individuals who pretend to have a neutral stance!?! god help us all!!

  2. What if they’re replaced by -gasp- individuals who report the news WITH a neutral stance? Or are upfront about their stance? We can’t let the government be the only populist manipulation game in town.

  3. …chariots, horse drawn buggies, and the horse whips, manual typewriters (mostly), lots of stuff goes extinct and something else comes along to fill the niche…what kind of useless thing will suppplant the print newspaper?

  4. too many p’s. I hate p’s, esp whirled p’s.

  5. “If newspapers die, so does reporting,”

    Newspapers are dying, because reporting has. All they do is reprint the same AP bullshit stories as each other. Unsurprisingly, the WSJ doesn’t want this: they are one of the few newspapers that actually does their own reporting anymore.

  6. Newspapers are dying, because reporting has.

    Exactly. I don’t know how alive it ever was, but the fact that there is one dude only–Radley–reporting on the broken justice system, tells me that these guys don’t do shit. Fuck them, they deserve to go under.

  7. If a majority of people decide not to buy newspapers, how can that not be democratic?

  8. In related news, Salon’s Gary Kamiya warns that “If newspapers die, so does reporting,”

    Somebody should introduce Kamiya to Glenn Greenwald.

  9. Yo, fuck Brian Tierney and the obsolete business model he rode in on.

  10. They don’t need a bailout, they have a promising future in the high volume, low cost world of pet cage liners. I see it as the ironic joining of the figurative and the literal.

  11. are increasingly devoid of human interaction or human stories

    OH! That’s what makes newspapers worthwhile! The cute picture of the kid in the stroller on the first warm day of the year with an ice cream cone! Heavens! It must be subsidized! We cannot lose such valuable reporting!

  12. It takes a lot to run a newspaper. Collecting and reporting facts is just a small part of it. You have to select the facts you wish to report, assemble those facts along a narrative that you think will sell (at least to your Columbia-educated editors), you have to create sensational headlines largely unrelated to the story. If we don’t get our adulterated stories from the New York Times, who will tell us what to think?

  13. If news papers die trees get to live!!!

    The bunny-huggers should be all for the dissolution of unsuccessful papers. I guess they are torn between their socialist desire to own and operate a state run paper and saving poor defenseless trees.

  14. If there aren’t any newspapers, how will people get outraged about vague political cartoons?

  15. Brian Tierney is a Republican hack. So much for conservatives and free markets.

  16. …increasingly devoid of human interaction or human stories…

    So THAT’S why the Chicago Tribune has started running more human interest crap since revamping their rag earlier this year. Industry experts really think people want MORE of that? And I though the record industry was stupid…

  17. WHY ARE YOU SO GREEDY?
    THESE POOR NEWSPAPER HAVE RUN THEMSELVES INTO THE GROUND! THEY DESERVE A BAILOUT JUST AS MUCH AS ANYONE ELSE! FREE MARKET? WHATS THAT!

  18. George Will printed another column after his one from Saturday?

    Hell, no wonder the post has not had an Ombudsmen since last December!

  19. Nationalized banks and newspapers, that’s change we can believe in!

  20. What interests mean in all the rhetoric about the need for government to intervene is all the preserving jobs language I see in that rhetoric. Productivity is what is important.

    Or let me put it this way; imagine if every American over the age of 18 were employed at 13th century levels of productivity. The government either “saving” or “creating” jobs is a poor proxy for enhancements in productivity, as just about every government jobs program of the 20th century in every nation illustrates.

  21. Why do I suspect that some of those lobbying for a newspaper bailout pitched a fit that Rupert Murdoch’s acquisitions would destroy editorial objectivity?

    Because I’m a skeptical cynical asshole.

    Salon, July 22, 2007. Don’t sell my company to Rupert Murdoch
    It’s not just bad journalism, it’s bad business to let Murdoch take control of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal.

    I believe our members’ interests are best served by adherence to the principle of editorial independence within a company whose only mission is reporting the news. As journalists and union members we see no upside in reducing Dow Jones to a tiny appendage of a global conglomerate with financial, political and regulatory interests alien to what we do.

    That didn’t take long at all.

  22. I hate to think of a world without neutral reporters

  23. If all they do is reprint AP stories, then why do “the media” have to send 15,000 reporters to a national convention, 10,000 to fires in California, etc. {Like I couldn’t understand the chimp rage story without my local tv station sending a chick to stand in front of the owner’s house and regurgitate what the Connecticut reporter has already fed the network?}

  24. @ClubMedSux
    The Britney Spearization of the American newspaper?

  25. Matt, I have no doubt that you would think generally the same on this subject had your career taken a different path, but it’s hard not to believe you have some schadenfreude at the LA Times doing a face plant.

  26. ‘All too often it has been sclerotic, incompetent and driven by hidden corporatist, nationalist or reactionary agendas.’

    Is that a fancy, liberal way of referring to fox news? I think so.

  27. No amount of government bailouts are going to get people reading newspapers again. What they could do is make them mediums where elites and those interested in what elites are saying interact with one another. Of course there are lots of mediums already where that happens.

  28. I never got a bailout. People liked what I published.

  29. Is it too rude to point out that “Reason” is already subsidized, by its foundation? And, further, it wants to be further subsidized, by me? As a subscriber, I occasionally get hit with letters asking me to give more. The Washington Post, for all its sins–like, you know, David Broder–doesn’t ask me for cash beyond the actual price of a subscription.

  30. Don’t expect the New York Post to get a bailout, after that cartoon.

    Get yer own link; I’m busy.

  31. it’s hard not to believe you have some schadenfreude at the LA Times doing a face plant.

    Not really. It’s my hometown paper from birth, partly responsible for me getting excited about journalism in the first place, and a place where some good friends of mine work. I’m rooting for it.

  32. My bad. Maybe I was mistaking you for Cavanaugh…

  33. Remember the last time California had a fiscal crisis, and the state wanted to place the sales tax on newspapers and magazines? The newspapers, I thought rightfully at the time, were against it on First Amendment grounds.

    Good times.

  34. Is it too rude to point out that “Reason” is already subsidized, by its foundation? And, further, it wants to be further subsidized, by me?

    It’s not rude, but it’s also not relevant. When Reason hits you up for money, they are only asking for your money and you have the option to say no. When Big Paper hits up the government for money, they’re asking for other people’s (i.e. the taxpayers’) money, and the taxpayers can’t say no.

  35. Is it too rude to point out that “Reason” is already subsidized, by its foundation?

    Not at all. Is it too rude to point out — on a site called Reason, anyway!! — that “subsidy” almost always refers to a government expenditure, which Reason is neither asking for nor taking?

  36. Banks
    Unions via the stimulus
    Newspapers

    …all within 6 months.

    At this rate every failed method of operation will be bailed out by productive method of operation. How long until the successful people just stop supporting this government and their friends altogether? A year? Two?

  37. We’re going to be seeing more of this if we can’t come up with some kind of digital property model. In a few short years, every form of dead tree publishing will die and any piece of information that gets posted anywhere in the world will be duplicated for free everywhere else.

    Reporters have to eat and right now they have no means of getting paid for their work. They’re joining the ranks of musicians and programmers who cannot control the fruits of their own labor.

    As more and more of our economy depends on intellectual property, we’re going to find ourselves either doing without or, worse, depending on the state for media, art and programming.

  38. Good column. Too bad Will discredited himself with the whole “global cooling” fiasco last week.

  39. For a short video satire on bailouts, you might enjoy http://www.bondwooley.com

  40. Alan Vanneman | February 19, 2009, 11:16am

    Is it too rude to point out that “Reason” is already subsidized, by its foundation?

    Bzzzt! A shocking error in logic, or at least usage. That’s akin to saying underage children are subsidized by their parents. Go back two spaces, Alan.

  41. The “Daily News” (one of the two papers here) has apparently been in financial trouble for quite some time, so it would make a lot more sense to either close it or fold it into the “Inquirer” (the other paper) first.

  42. The government need to support real journalism by credentialed professionals as a stop-gap measure until we can institute fairness among the unregulated, wild west free-for-all of radio,cable and the internet.We can’t have our information supply contaminated by those with an agenda of hate.

  43. If all they do is reprint AP stories, then why do “the media” have to send 15,000 reporters to a national convention, 10,000 to fires in California, etc.

    That’s a good question. I suspect the answer can be found in our discussions of how jobs that need to be subsidized by the State are, ipso facto, non-productive jobs.

  44. At this rate every failed method of operation will be bailed out by productive method of operation.

    We’re still waiting for our bailouts.

  45. If all they do is reprint AP stories, then why do “the media” have to send 15,000 reporters to a national convention, 10,000 to fires in California, etc. {Like I couldn’t understand the chimp rage story without my local tv station sending a chick to stand in front of the owner’s house and regurgitate what the Connecticut reporter has already fed the network?}

    Thank you. You could probably get a computer to do fact-checking too, and it might be more accurate.

    Someone needs to set up a fact-checking database service. I propose a merger between snopes, wikipedia, and google.

  46. Look, first the newspapers get their bailout,
    then the blogs get bailed out, and then the blog commenters.

    So hurry it up, I’m hurting here.

  47. often written by individuals who do not pretend to have a neutral stance.

    I prefer my reporting to be done by the New York Times that does pretend to have a neutral stance.

  48. If reporters aren’t paid for their work, then it’s simple: There won’t be any more reporting.
    That, of course, won’t happen.
    The media business model is evolving and changing direction so quickly right now that not even the people who have a vested interested in making journalism profitable have much of a clue as to what’s going to happen next.

  49. “subsidy” almost always refers to a government expenditure, which Reason is neither asking for nor taking

    But the free-riding market fundamentalists under its sway have to drive down heavily policed roads to buy it, with money that has presidents on it, and the buildings they buy it in are seldom on fire (for very long), and the girls working the counters are vaccinated against genital warts. SO THERE.

  50. The government need to support real journalism by credentialed professionals as a stop-gap measure until we can institute fairness among the unregulated, wild west free-for-all of radio,cable and the internet.We can’t have our information supply contaminated by those with an agenda of hate.

    I agree. Journalists should be subject to strict regulation. It shouldn’t be too hard to make a list of suitable discussion topics, then enforce it. To let people just talk about anything in a public forum is both unpatriotic and a waste of society’s resources.

    *cough*

  51. “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.”

    Sssssssssssssnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaap!

  52. The Washington Post, for all its sins–like, you know, David Broder–doesn’t ask me for cash beyond the actual price of a subscription.

    And why would it? After all, it has the deep pockets of the Federal Government behind it.

  53. You Liberdopes won’t be laughing when all the newspapers are gone and you can’t find your horoscope or read Marmaduke.

  54. You Liberdopes won’t be laughing when all the newspapers are gone

    This one will.

  55. Sal Paradise,

    You Liberdopes won’t be laughing when all the newspapers are gone and you can’t find your horoscope…

    Interestingly enough, the area of the country with the highest level of subscriptions to horoscope publications is Berkeley, California, not exactly known as a bastion of libertarianism.

    Besides, trivial entertainments can be easily found on the internet. It’s actual information that is valuable. Since the 60’s the major media have become more interested in trying to sell a particular political narrative instead of information. Why should I pay for that when I can read political press releases online for free?

  56. You Liberdopes won’t be laughing when all the newspapers are gone and you can’t find your horoscope…”

    I can’t wait for them to fail. Then all the stupid people who actually get their news from them will have to start looking and learning for themselves or stop hearing bad info altogether.

  57. You Liberdopes won’t be laughing when all the newspapers are gone and you can’t find your horoscope or read Marmaduke.

    Yes… yes we will.

  58. We can’t have our information supply contaminated by those with an agenda of hate.

    I agree. Let’s begin with the hate-filled bloodthirsty maniacs that are laughingly called “reporters” and “editors” of ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, AP, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc. If we have to nuke the Bill of Rights in order to “fight hate”, why not at least start with the worst offenders?

  59. By the way, you can now purchase a share of stock in the New York Times corporation ($3.51) for less money than it costs to buy a copy of the Sunday edition ($4).

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