Big news this week has been Newsweek being sold for $1 to Sidney Harman, a stereo mogul. With such news in the lime light I think it’s a relevant time to bring up the idea being tossed around Washington and among some media elites: bailouts for the media.
First, lets talk about this business of bailouts. I’ve been hard pressed to find many people, right or left, who think the bank bailouts have been a good thing. (Ok, I know there will be several people ready to prove me wrong there. I know there are leftists that believe bailing out GM was a good thing and I’m pretty sure those people are standing in line waiting to get their hands on a $41,000 Chevy Volt, right?!) The problem is TARP is not to9 big to fail. It can and it will. The amount of money that has gone into these bailouts has been outrageous and the numbers are so high that no one even bats an eye when they hear amounts like “$200 billion”, that’s congressional pocket change compared to our $13 trillion dollar debt.
But therein lies the problem. A $35 billion dollar “media bailout” is nothing compared to the nearly $800 billion dollar TARP bailout and many people tend to think, “well, it’s ONLY $35 billion, it’s not $800…it could be worse.” But the money isn’t my greatest concern.
The biggest worry I have with any sort of media bailout is that, as we found with the Journolist story, there are many journalists who wouldn’t even think twice about their journalistic integrity if they were given the power to influence public opinion. That scares me the most. I understand that journalists have a lot of power. Most of it is derived from the fact that for a number of years the only news we heard about was the news journalists and editors thought would sell papers, get ratings, and make their advertisers happy. They controlled the extent of our knowledge of our world around us. When your options are limited, your world view tends to be as well.
Then the internet came and killed it all. Ok, I’m only half joking. But within the past 15 years, citizen journalism has been making a great push. Every day citizens of the world are attempting to get the truth out while bypassing traditional mainstream media outlets. To be honest, I get more of my news from the blogosphere. No, I don’t take every blog I read as gospel, but I do click the links and check the sources, and I generally get the gist of it and move on. I have a feeling there are a lot of people who gather their daily news in a similar fashion. Whether it’s a blog feed reader, twitter, facebook or something else, I can assure you, there aren’t many people who wake up every morning and get excited to read their local newspaper, when the news they’re reading is at least 4-6 hours old at that point.
Do I think we need to save traditional media outlets? From what? Themselves? I mean, let’s be honest, they’re not failing because some evil corporation has a monopoly on the newspaper industry and is slowly taking over talk radio too. This failure is a prime example of how free markets work. The traditional media outlets are, pardon the pun, old news. The news that’s on my local newspaper’s website is more accurate and up to date than what’s in the daily paper, and that costs a quarter, I don’t have to pay for the website. Free is definitely cheaper than $0.25 last time I checked. Now newspaper companies are trying to find a way to be “internet relevant”. They’re selling more online advertising space than they are in their newspapers; they’re charging people to comment on their stories and some are making it work. But reality is, Americans aren’t going to pay for something when they can get it for free. So, this is where you come to a crossroads: do you ask Uncle Sam to give you a few more minutes to gasp for air, or do you go out with dignity and realize that the power is no longer in your hands?
We, the people, have a say here and we say, “It was nice to know you MSM, but we’re moving on to bigger, faster and slightly-less-government-controlled things. Adios!”