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Name: Dave Leigh
Location: Union, South Carolina, United States

I was born too young. And when I die, I'll still be too young.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Failing Newspapers... Let them GO.

In the Washington Post of 30 October 2009, Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols call for government subsidies for print news media. In this desperate bid to save their own outdated jobs, they use a sort of twisted logic that only a carnival sideshow contortionist could truly appreciate.

They argue... well, read it for yourself:
What's notable about Obama's response to the question, posed during an Oval Office interview with editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, was his consciousness that the problem is not that print is fading. The problem is that newspaper newsrooms, once packed with reporters, are disappearing, and neither broadcast nor digital media are filling the void. Obama is right when he says that finding a model to pay journalists to question, analyze and speak truth to power "is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy."
OK, mull it over. Print isn't fading, but it can't pay its reporters. Maybe they ought to re-think that "print isn't fading" thing, because if that were even approximately right then they'd have no problem paying reporters and no need for subsidies.

As I may have mentioned before, my teenage career goal was to become a newspaper journalist. I went to university. I took courses. This was the late 70s, early 80s; the age of Lou Grant, and everybody wanted to be Joe Rossi and change the world. Literally, if you asked any one of my college classmates why they wanted to be journalists, they'd have told you that they wanted to change the world. Not me. I wanted to be Walter Cronkite. I wanted to report the news.

Now, the "change the world" camp has been in charge of all of the news media since the 70s, and quite frankly, they've run the business into the ground. When all we had were three networks and one or two major newspapers per city they were able to do it with impunity. Now, with 300 specialty channels and the Internet... some real choice, they're finding that the American public really and truly doesn't want their product. American people want the news. They do not want the angle, the slant, the spin.

In broadcast media you see incontrovertible proof of this in that FoxNews demolishes its competition in the ratings. Despite the far Left's inability to tell the difference between an opinion show like Hannity and a hard news program like America's News HQ, Fox is as neutral as broadcast journalism gets. You see further proof on the web, where people prefer bare news sources.

In addition to undesired content, people no longer want the physical medium itself. How many trees do we cut down every year to provide a product that is literally thrown away the same day, or put on the floor for the dog to crap on? This IS the 21st century, and the only people who don't know it yet are the Amish and print journalists.

McChesney and Nichols go on to quote President Barack Obama:
"Government without a tough and vibrant media is not an option for the United States of America."
The quote by itself is reasonable, but combined with the source it is laughable. This is the same President Obama whose White House tried to block the nation's #1 rated news channel from access to official press sources, arguing that they "aren't news." All because they were too "tough" and "vibrant" for him. Such blatant hypocrisy! Of course he wants government-funded media, just as he wanted government control of the automobile industry and government-run healthcare. When bullying doesn't work, control of the purse-strings often do. And while McChesney and Nichols invoke high-flying images of Jefferson and Madison, the fact is that those presidents could not in their wildest dreams imagine that the country they built would turn into the Socialistic mishegoss we have today. Do you really believe that they would back any system that taxes most of an individual's income? They revolted for less.

This government is far removed from Jefferson and Madison. This government has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to impose any onerous legislation whatsoever on the People, based only on the flimsy foundation of "general welfare"... two words of Section 8 of the Constitution that do not mean "subsidies" in the context of the language of the Founders (rather, it means health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being). Government subsidies under this government will inexorably lead to one thing: the ability of this government to control the content of the media, by declaring that said content isn't "fair enough". They will use this as a lever to separate what is and isn't "news" based solely on this government's criteria. Don't think that they won't do it... they already have.

The Obama quote is further laughable because - as noted - tough and vibrant media are not missing in America. Rather, it's found in other more modern forms. Town criers and printed handbills have lost their popularity as news sources as well, and we don't subsidize them as a result. The remaining news media were tough and vibrant enough. And as the news becomes more digitized, distributed, and democratic it will continue to be so.

That's right. Democratic. Look, I don't believe for one second that there's a shortage of reporters. Rather, the reporters are turning to other media to get the word out. They no longer want to work in a big newsroom where the Editor is going to dictate to them the angle that the paper will support, choking off the reporter's life support if he doesn't toe the line. Instead reporters are free to report the news, as they see it, with no editorial interference. The large print newspapers are not now, nor have they ever been, the voice of democracy. They are the voices of the editors. As more and more papers have been purchased and folded into news conglomerates such as The Times Newspapers, these have been the voices of fewer and fewer editors. What they haven't counted on is that the reporters still want to change the world, though not in the direction the editors would prefer. And now that their empires are in jeopardy, these same media types are looking for their own bailout... or if you prefer, some payback from the folks they helped put in office.

Forget it. Put the newspaper in the museum next to the gaslighter's wick and a used buggy whip. Then turn on your computer and read its obituary on-line.

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