Civil Liberties

DOJ, to Newspaper: Shape Up, or Ship Out


Over at the Mises Economic Blog, Federal Trade Commission watchdog S.M. Oliva explains how newspaper workshops are the least of it when it comes into FTC and Department of Justice meddling into media affairs.

The First Amendment, as re-imagined by the DOJ and FTC, is actually an affirmative grant of state power that allows unelected lawyers the right to seize control of publications if they deem it in the "public interest."

To that end, the DOJ is currently pursuing litigation against two West Virginia newspapers, who have been operating for decades under a joint operating agreement. The DOJ wants to dissolve the agreement because it is dissatisfied with the editorial quality of one of the papers, the Daily Mail. The Newspaper Association of America, in a court filing, explained why that would be a bad idea:

The government cannot properly base a claim on its negative evaluation of the Daily Mail's content. Nor could it properly seek a judicial decree that more newspaper editorial and news content be published in Charleston then currently exists. No branch of government in this Nation is entitled to determine the type or volume of the editorial and reportorial content of newspapers.

Editorial quality is in the eye of the beholder. One need only contrast 60 Minutes with Entertainment Tonight to see the subjectivity involved. In the field of newspapers, different publications may take vastly different approaches. The New York Daily News is not the same type of paper as the Miami Herald, the New York Times or USA Today, to arbitrarily pick a few. Which newspaper would the DOJ most want the Daily Mail to resemble and have the Court require?

More about the DOJ's West Virginia lawsuit here. My case against Joint Operating Agreements here.