A bailout for newspapers?
One of the lessons to come out the auto bailout soap opera was that asking for government help means submitting to government control. That should make a recent development in Connecticut particularly disturbing. Lawmakers there are pushing for a newspaper bailout. According to Governor M. Jodi Rell, “There’s something about having that paper and being able to sit there with your cup of coffee or your tea and read through and find out not only the news but the real feel for a community.”
So far, the papers are scoffing, recognizing that it would mean the end of a free press. I like the way one journalist put it: “You can’t expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it.”
But as the newspaper industry continues to decline, that opposition could weaken. While newspapers oppose the specter of government control today, they just might be willing to reconsider in the face of bankruptcy. After all, they, like virtually everyone else, take it as self-evident that there should be a newspaper industry, in the same way that it is treated as self-evident that there should be an American auto industry, regardless of whether either can survive on a free market.
But there is nothing sacrosanct about the newspaper industry. If Americans prefer to get their news from TV or the Internet, then the government has no business interfering–regardless of how Governor Rell likes to drink her coffee.