Bailout? Who needs a bailout? Certainly not the newspaper industry.
Well, this is sort of interesting. Remember a long, long time ago when a public outcry roared louder than police sirens in Baltimore on a Saturday night about the proposition of bailing out huge, corporate entities? “Oh, no. We just absolutely cannot afford to watch the government give out money to the auto industry time and time again. Those loan companies? Insurance agencies? Goodness, gracious. When will it stop?”
Well, as has been profiled throughout various media outlets recently, one place it isn’t going to stop at is the newspaper industry. Grumblings have recently surfaced that a new bill has been introduced to congress regarding the possibility of bailing out newspapers.
There have been various options that have been suggested by an assortment of suits in Washington. Some have argued that newspapers begin to receive tax-exempt status. Some have thrown out the possibility of newspapers becoming a non-profit entity. Then, of course, there is always the option of lowering the tax hit some newspaper companies are forced to deal with. Hell, even our president weighed in at the recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner, by saying that eliminating newspapers as a whole simply isn’t an option in this country.
Now, as lovable as newspapers are, it’s awfully hard to buy into this notion. Take a look at Fox News. Rupert Murdoch has taken his 24-hour news channel and made it into a mockery of journalism over the course of the last decade. His invention of Fox News only drew the line in the sand deeper between Democrats and Republicans. Nobody expects to turn on his channel to receive fair coverage. Anymore, viewers flock there for one of two reasons: They absolutely agree with everything they hear being said, or two: They utterly disagree with anything in front of them and it angers them so much, they simply can’t change the channel.
That particular business model has worked out brilliantly for someone who cares first and foremost about business. But journalistically? Perhaps that appears to be the trade that took the biggest blow as a result of Murdoch’s ideas. The repercussions of his slanted programming has all but forced the hands of Universal to lean a little to the left in their MSNBC coverage. At this point, the idea isn’t about relaying the news, it’s simply more about who can turn the most heads.
So what happens if the government gets involved with newspapers and this particular medium of journalism? If a democratic president makes a largely unpopular decision, yet we don’t see that story at the top of the front page, above the fold, in the New York Times, while we all know – hypothetically speaking, of course - the New York Times recently accepted millions of bailout dollars from the White House, how many republicans do you think are going to throw a fit? Likewise, should a republican president be in office and formulate a gigantic blunder, yet we find that particular story at the bottom of A3 in the Los Angeles Times, democrats may showcase a similar reaction.
While newspapers are sinking, turning to politicians for help is probably going to be more counterproductive at this point than anything. A recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 70 percent of Americans thought that professional journalists wanted to see Barack Obama win the presidential election. We get it. Everyone turns to their preferred media outlet simply because they agree with whatever side the outlet they turn to rolls with.
But this isn’t what journalism is supposed to be about. In fact, journalism itself may be the only thing left standing when this whole newspaper mess gets straightened out. As NYU professor Clay Shirky’s excellent piece on print media recently pointed out, what we need is journalism, not necessarily newspapers. The more we turn away from reporting the news, the more we enforce the misperception that the media as a whole is becoming more and more irrelevant.
Taking money from congress isn’t going to do much to help this awful interpretation. Conditional, outside factors may have been the foremost reason the newspaper industry has found itself where it is now. But that doesn’t mean it can’t help correct itself, rather than take the easy way out by accepting funds from the most subjective resource out there: The World Of Politics.
Besides, aren’t newspapers supposed to be a source of objectivity, anyways?