Newspaper bailout unlikely to equate to instant integrity
The Vanguard Vision
October 5, 2009 —
If as you are reading this editorial your fingers get a little smeared with ink from thumbing through the pages, what you’re physically holding onto may soon rest next to dinosaur bones in museums nationwide.
The newspaper industry as we used to know it took quite the dive this year. Daily papers across the country transitioned to printing only a few days a week. Some papers went under completely while others went strictly to the Web. In the midst of an ever-evolving digital age, news comes in many, many forms.
Last month, President Obama made remarks with regard to the dying industry that he would be “happy to look at” legislation that would bail out newspapers via tax-breaks that transformed to fit a nonprofit, educational corporation status.
The initial response to a newspaper bailout among those in the industry has been one of great skepticism. We at the Vanguard are no exception and approach the idea of this proposition with caution.
Questions popped up quickly. Do we still have a “free press” if tax payer dollars enter the equation? How could government support potentially affect a newspaper’s content? Does simply a nonprofit status automatically make a newspaper a credible source, free of any agendas? As it would seem with any proposed government bailout, shades of gray are evident. And these are only a few of the holes journalists have pointed out.
We could beat this proposition into the ground or attempt to bolster it up in the areas where it appears to have merit, but let’s not blow by the fact that what we have here is a possible solution, and most solutions are preceded by a problem. So what’s the problem?
Obama referenced the danger of a blogosphere that becomes increasingly filled with “opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context.” Who could blame a president, or anyone for that matter, for wishing away gossip that provokes time-wasting damage control? What we want is straight news. Or do we?
We arrive back at a frightening reality: Some Americans seek truth and expect their news sources to hold public officials accountable for their actions regarding the issues that matter most to us. Other Americans would rather have their personal values and viewpoints validated from A1 to the comics. Thus, some news organizations, whether they report with accuracy or claim that Obama fathered a illegitimate child on every continent, will use the very same ethical mentality from newspapers to the Web to broadcasts.
There is an audience for self-serving, extremist gab. There probably always will be. Are we to expect that news organizations that put on a nonprofit educational hat will strip their content of fabrications and editorializations that leak far beyond the opinion section? Integrity is found in people, not in government funding. However, it would be wrong to underestimate the serious problem the news industry continues to face as free content becomes an expectation. Our country’s watchdogs need to be fed properly, but at this point, a government bailout might not be the best course of action.
It may take more initiative on behalf of Americans. Perhaps it’s time we start creating more demand for and financially supporting what we can use our noggins to determine is as close to unbiased reporting as we can get. Then we can decide what to do with our entertainment dollars.