In the aftermath of the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that have been spent on President Obama’s stimulus package, as well as bailouts for the nation’s financial institutions and automotive industries, I suppose that we should never be surprised over what will come next as the President and his congressional allies proceed to remake America to fit their own socialistic views. Still, I was astonished when I read the following headline of Michael O’Brien’s September 20, 2009, article in THE HILL, a Washington publication: “OBAMA OPEN TO NEWSPAPER BAILOUT BILL.” Surely, I said to myself, America has not come to this – where we must try to bailout newspapers or any other organization that takes our fancy, all in the name of “the vital interests of the nation”.
According to O’Brien’s article, United States Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) had introduced S.673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act”. This proposed legislation would provide tax relief to news organizations, such as the NEW YORK TIMES and others, if they would convert to nonprofit organizations with Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. In other words, if financially troubled news organizations would abandon the necessity of making a profit in order to exist, the government would come to the rescue. No doubt, the government would also impose restrictions or establish guidelines on what news could be reported or commented upon, just as it has established guidelines for the nation’s financial institutions and automotive industries.
President Obama was quoted as saying that he would be “happy to look at” the proposed legislation and that good journalism is “critical to the health of our democracy”. He was also “concerned” about the growing trend of reporting – especially the political blogs, which he stated result in “not a lot of mutual understanding”.
After reading O’Brien’s article, I put it aside for further consideration at some later date, hoping the whole concept would go away. Then, on October 21, 2009, I came across an article by Seth Lipsky in the WALL STREET JOURNAL entitled “ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO SUBSIDIZE”. He reported that Leonard Downie, a former executive editor of the WASHINGTON POST (and one who had once publicly refused to vote so that he would not be improperly influenced in his zeal to report the news) had issued a written report for the Columbia Journalism School and came out in favor of government subsidies for the press. His report was entitled “THE RECONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM”.
In reading Lipsky’s article, I learned that direct government subsidies are indeed given to newspapers in some European countries, and that advocates of such a practice argue that government support for news reporting should not be precluded “anymore than it has for the arts, the humanities, and sciences, all of which receive some government support”.
There is no doubt that many news organizations are suffering financially at the present time. There is also no doubt that a free press is vital to our society or that freedom of the press and free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In my view, a free press cannot be maintained in any news organization that accepts government subsidies of any kind. Whether Senator Cardin’s proposed legislation (or any similar legislation) should receive serious consideration is a subject that all of our news organizations, both locally and nationally, should be questioned about. They should publically comment on the subject – loud and clear – before any attempt is made to pass such legislation and before the general public is made fully aware of the implications of this latest attempt to “reconstruct” America
- ► 2011 (13)
- ► 2010 (28)