Obama “happy to look at” newspaper bailout

Posted on September 21, 2009

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The Hill is reporting that President Obama, in an interview with the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, said that he would be “happy to look at” proposals that would give news organizations tax breaks if they reorganized as non-profits. In the past, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has downplayed the prospects of a so-called newspaper bailout, but comments like this will further fan the flames of worries of a press bailout.

There is currently a bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin and co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, both Democrats from Maryland, named the “Newspaper Revitalization Act” that would give press outlets tax breaks if they reorganize as 501(c)(3) entities. And back in May, Sen. John Kerry held a hearing on the “Future of Journalism” that many saw as a prelude to a press bailout.

Then there’s this quote:

Obama said that good journalism is “critical to the health of our democracy,” but expressed concern toward growing tends in reporting — especially on political blogs, from which a groundswell of support for his campaign emerged during the presidential election.

“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.

It’s not helpful to political discourse when a President and political party simultaneously offer financial support for news organizations while at the same time express concern with those news entities that won’t need their help. And, really, after all the great press the President received during the campaign and the first few months of his Presidency, what does he truly have to complain about? That folks aren’t accepting at face value the claims put forth in the health reform debate? So all it takes is a few months of slightly critical reporting and suddenly there’s a concerning trend in journalism?

I’m not buying it, and if there should ever be one industry exempt from government assistance, the so-called “free press” should be it.

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Posted in: News, Politics