When I read the opening of this article, my first reaction was “Let them die.” Here’s what I’m referring to:
Connecticut lawmaker Frank Nicastro sees saving the local newspaper as his duty. But others think he and his colleagues are setting a worrisome precedent for government involvement in the U.S. press.
Nicastro represents Connecticut’s 79th assembly district, which includes Bristol, a city of about 61,000 people outside Hartford, the state capital. Its paper, The Bristol Press, may fold within days, along with The Herald in nearby New Britain.
That is because publisher Journal Register, in danger of being crushed under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, says it cannot afford to keep them open anymore.
Nicastro and fellow legislators want the papers to survive, and petitioned the state government to do something about it. “The media is a vitally important part of America,” he said, particularly local papers that cover news ignored by big papers and television and radio stations.
I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth during Reagan’s time. People bemoaned the fact that IBM, Sears and Montgomery Ward were going through difficult times, relatively speaking. I say relatively because IBM still held a market share north of 75 percent.
While politicians were whining about IBM’s, Sears’ and Montgomery Ward’s difficulties, people weren’t noticing how Walmart was replacing Sears’ and Montgomery Ward’s catalog operations. They weren’t noticing that this little company in Redmond, Washington was helping eliminate most of IBM’s market share with a product called Windows.
It’s just a matter of time before the newspaper essentially dies. We’ve seen the articles about how the NYTimes sold off assets to keep its core business running a few more years. Minnesotans have seen the Strib’s layoffs. Ad revenues are dropping industrywide, too.
When do we reach the point that we say “Let them die”? Here’s a better question: Have we reached the point when we say “Let them die”? It’s my contention that we’ve reached that point.
A good rule of thumb in determining whether something should be allowed to die is whether it can’t survive without frequent government assistance payments. It’s a fact that nature abhors a vacuum. It’s also fact that markets abhor vacuums, too. It’s just a matter of time before someone thinks of an efficient model for reporting the news.
This new model mustn’t just be a ‘tinkering around the edges’ model. It must re-examine a newspaper’s role. Jon Henke asks alot of smart questions about that in this post:
If there is a central problem with journalism, it is the lack of skepticism. Especially as it applies to government. Politicians and political organizations are not held to account for contradictory statements, false predictions and claims. Why did it take a Washington Post reporter so many years to learn skepticism, and why would he ever discard skepticism?
The Right has convinced itself that the problem is “that liberal media”, but that is obstructive rhetoric. Sure, there are a multitude of examples of media bias that favors the Left…but there are also a multitude of examples of media bias that favors the Right. People notice what they expect to see.
This isn’t a problem of personal bias; biases are unavoidable and don’t fit a left/right matrix, anyway. Ultimately, criticisms of Left/Right bias are tactical attacks against symptoms, not the problem itself. Crying “that liberal media!” delegitimizes our more fundamental criticisms. The problem isn’t a biased media. It is a media that has lost sight of the role of journalism and reporters.
If there is even a question of whether they should be extremely skeptical of political claims, then they aren’t really a Fourth Estate at all. They’ve just become enablers of the Estates to which they are attached.
I’m betting that The Bristol Press and The Herald that Rep. Dicastro wants to save are nothing more than the local mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. If that’s accurate, then I don’t see the value of artificially propping up these speicific newspapers.
UPDATE: Welcome HotAir readers. It’s time we stopped this bailout mentality before it sinks the U.S. economy while wasting money by the fistful.
Cross-posted at California Conservative