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-Newspaper Bailouts: a Threat to Freedom of the Press?

by Dr. D ~ September 21st, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  (FILE PHOTO)T...

(LA Times Building by Getty Images via Daylife)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, a bill called "Newspaper Revitalization Act," that would encourage newspapers to restructure their businesses as non-profit 501(c)(3) corporations and receive tax benefits and possible  credits from the government.

The newspapers in the United States have been particularly hurt by the down turn and the drying up of advertising. Many major newspapers across the country are in financial trouble and in serious danger of going out of business.

Meanwhile, President Obama says that he is open to the bill and would like to save the newspaper business:

"I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet, but I’ll be happy to look at them.” Obama said that good journalism is "critical to the health of our democracy, I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding."

Response: There are a number of reasons for the failing newspaper industry and while the recession has acerbated their situation they were already on their way towards major difficulty with shrinking readership far before the down turn materialized. Fact is-few folks in their thirties are still reading the papers and even fewer still among those in their twenties. The business is facing a major demographic problem.

Secondly, the writers and publishers of most major city newspapers are nearly all liberal and secular in their views and a progressive agenda dominates the printed news causing many conservatives like myself to discontinue their subscriptions. I gave up on the LA Times long time ago because of the liberal slant that dominates everything but the sport page in that paper. Then they wonder why they’ve lost 1/2 a million or so readers.

If the government ‘bails’ out the newspaper business will there be any strings attached?

If so, how will that affect the ‘freedom of the press’? With politicians involved in the process it is always a concern, after all President Obama’s stated motivation for ‘helping out’ the newspapers is to achieve a “mutual understanding” in this country—very scary from my perspective.

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