With the American people sick to death of corporate bailouts, one might think that the White House would avoid sounding the least bit interested in another plan to save an industry from itself. Apparently the Obama administration has not yet realized this, as Barack Obama himself sounded quite interested in Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) plan to rescue the newspaper industry from its self-inflicted wounds. Instead of encouraging the broadsheets to develop a new business plan, Cardin would turn them into charity cases — and non-profits for the purposes of tax relief:
The president said he is “happy to look at” bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.
“I haven’t seen detailed proposals yet, but I’ll be happy to look at them,” Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin’s Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).
Obama then offered this rationale:
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said.
Not to be flip, but … so? Since when has it been the business of government to shape public speech? I seem to recall something in the Constitution that explicitly made that none of the federal government’s business.
Besides, newspapers are as guilty of those charges as blogs, and in many cases rather egregiously so. For instance, just in the last few days, the Washington Post decided to put the ACORN story “in context” not by reporting on the people in ACORN, their actions on videotape, and the organization’s attempts to evade responsibility, but by reporting that one of the two reporters on the case has a father who is a Christian minister. They also tried to pass off a quasi-quote as a smear of racism, which Scott Johnson at the blog Power Line highlights:
More nefariously, the Post implies that Giles and O’Keefe worked with racist motivations:
Though O’Keefe described himself as a progressive radical, not a conservative, he said he targeted ACORN for the same reasons that the political right does: its massive voter registration drives that turn out poor African Americans and Latinos against Republicans.
“Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” he said. “No one was holding this organization accountable. No one in the media is putting pressure on them. We wanted to do a stunt and see what we could find.”
If O’Keefe had said something incendiary about a racial motivation for undertaking his investigation of ACORN, one can be sure that the Post reporters would have quoted it instead of simply larding the context with an imputation of racism. The Post certainly provides no supporting quote.
It appears to me that Post reporters Darryl Fears and Carol D. Leonnig are alone responsible for introducing race to the discussion. Associated Press reporters Sharon Theimer and Pete Yost pick up where the Post left off in this story:
James O’Keefe, one of the two filmmakers, said he went after ACORN because it registers minorities likely to vote against Republicans: “Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” O’Keefe told The Washington Post. “No one was holding this organization accountable.”
But did O’Keefe say any such thing? The Washington Post reporters imply the existence of a statement that is nowhere quoted. The AP takes the cue and puts the words in O’Keefe’s mouth. It’s quite a racket they’ve got going here, and someone really should call them on it.
The entire raison d’etre of the newspaper industry, according to their own leading lights, is to shine a light on the halls of power and enforce transparency. If they’re getting a big tax break from the government by becoming “non-profit” (many of them are already non-profit in practice, which is their problem), doesn’t take impact their ability to report in an objective manner? For that matter, what would prevent blogs from organizing as 501(c)(3) entities themselves?
The government has no place in the newspaper industry. It had no place in the insurance or automaking industries either, but this is much more dangerous. The only unique value newspapers have is in their independence from the government. Once they become beholden to Congress and the federal bureaucracy, they may as well change their names to Government Times.