Newspaper Bailouts Criticized On The Hill

The debate in Congress intensifies.

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Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the decline of the newspaper industry. As Dana Millbank reports in the Washington Post, the attitude of some of the congresspeople regarding the potential death of newspapers was one of slightly restrained glee. Why bail out an industry that has failed to do its job of objective journalism, some asked?

But even some defenders of the industry were uneasy with the idea of a government bailout. Ben Scott, policy director of media nonprofit Free Press, testified at the hearing and said that the death of newspapers will lead to less professional journalism, which in turn leads to "severe problems for a democratic society." But it doesn't follow from that, Scott argued, that we need bailouts.

It is especially important to resist the temptation of bailouts because the first papers to fail will be those who least deserve a bailout. Those are the papers whose own business decisions placed them under a crushing debt-load in pursuit of consolidated ownership and short-term gains. Few could welcome handing Sam Zell a fat check from the Treasury after his ill-fated adventure with the Tribune Company. That’s not to say we should let the journalism or the journalists fade away. But there are other ways to preserve those critical elements that do not involve bailouts.

I've posted about some of those other ways, although I'm not sure they are what Scott has in mind.

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