Suddenly everyone's talking about government subsidies of the press. It's nuts. How would Republicans like subsidies determined -- as former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie theorizes -- by an FCC appointed by Barack Obama? How would I feel about subsidies controlled by Mike Huckabee appointees? I'd call it an apoplectic dead heat.
Just say no to press subsidies. I'm with conservative opinion writer Seth Lipsky on this one.
While we're on the subject of "saving" newspapers, here's a contrarian view of the lamentations that the Internet spells the ends of newspapers and "real" journalism. It might spell the end of immensely lucrative family monopolies of a branch of the information industry. But many industries have been dislocated by technology before. To believe the failure of some newspapers equals the demise of journalism is to believe that the newspapers were the one and only perfect and fully comprehensive recorders of local events (they aren't). It is also to believe that new forms of information -- including instant crowd-sourced information -- are never superior. (They often are.) Writes Henry Blodgett:
The Internet is doing to the news business the same thing it has done to dozens of other industries: disrupting it. Specifically, it is taking an old, inefficient system and making it much faster and more efficient. It is also eliminating enormous overcapacity in the news business (yes, overcapacity--society doesn't need hundreds of White House reporters). As always, this disruption is painful, but it's not necessarily bad. In fact, as far as a lot of people are concerned, it's better.
How do we know this?
Because folks who have embraced the changing ways of exchanging news and information are not writing essays about how the whole world is falling apart. In fact, most of them prefer this new world to the old.
For every horror story about how awful and un-accountable this new world is going to be, moreover, there are dozens of examples of uncovered sleaze, unfairness, and hypocrisy that never would have been reported in the old mainstream media world.
I still prefer the print newspaper package as a "delivery system." But I am not blind to the many advantages of new media and the wretchedness of many of the papers that government subsidies would protect. Newspaper Darwinism, I say.