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Talks Surface of a Newspaper Industry Bailout

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“You gotta be freakin’ kidding me!”

That was my reaction to a Reuters article that I came across. I am still a little taken aback, as they say, about the even the threat of the US government looking into ways to bailout the struggling newspaper / old school media industry. Right now it’s more talk than anything else but if someone said it in a public forum then you know there are greater rumblings going through Washington with a similar stink on them. I guess you can guess where I stand on this one, huh?

The Reuters article starts off

A top Democratic lawmaker predicted on Wednesday that the government will be involved in shaping the future for struggling U.S. media organizations.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, saying quality journalism was essential to U.S. democracy, said eventually government would have to help resolve the problems caused by a failing business model.

Waxman, other U.S. lawmakers and regulators are looking into various options to help a newspaper industry hurt by the shift in advertising revenues to online platforms.

Can you see me shaking my head now? Did the government bailout the horse and buggy industry when the automobile was invented? Did the government bailout the radio industry when TV came along? Did anyone bailout the transcribers of the world when the Gutenberg press started producing the printed word?

If journalism is essential to the US democracy then let the free market system that has built this democracy into one of the greatest powers of the modern age (at least until recently that is) take care of how this plays out! The last thing we need is the government handing tax benefits and even worse, more deficit funded handouts to the likes of the Washington Post, New York Times and anything that Rupert Murdoch is whining about these days.

So who will profit from this concept more: our democracy or the likes of Rupert Murdoch? Hey let’s just go out and figure out which failing business model victim looks the most like AIG, Bank of America or Government General Motors and throw money at their executives business and see just how much better it gets. WTF!

This is not a government issue for goodness sake. This is a paradigm shift issue. The world is changing and not everything survives change. Why are we so obsessed with keeping something alive that may not have a place in the new world media order? And if it does have a place let the free market principles that allowed it to thrive for so long determine what piece or pieces will move forward as we boldly go further in the digital age.

Of course there is some press constituency that thinks this a great idea. Wonder who pays their bills?

Free Press, a public interest group, said the search for solutions to the crisis in journalism should be premised on the idea that news-gathering is a public service, not a commodity.

Waxman’s “indication that government has a role to play is both bold and soberly sensible,” said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott on the sidelines of the FTC conference.

I call BS on this one. Honestly, if the newspapers were truly a public service shouldn’t they have acted more responsibly to the change that very public is undergoing in how it consumes news? Business change is not always about failure; it’s usually more about progress and smarts or lack thereof. If the newspapers have ignored the myriad tell tale signs that have been written on the wall for years now why should MY TAX dollars save them from their own arrogance and stupidity? What have they done for me and my business?

Geesh, just the rumor of this happening really ticks me off! Hey, Senator Waxman and anyone else who thinks this is a good idea! Shut up and go read your Washington Post while it’s still here!

Phew! That felt great because I am part of the new free press and I plan on being around in the digital age as long as I can identify what people really want. Will it last forever? Probably not but if I am not smart enough to get on board the next train that is heading for the future don’t bail me out. That’ll be my problem not yours.

UPDATE: Google CEO Eric Schmidt gives the WSJ his ideas for fixing the “crisis” in the newspaper industry.

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Talks Surface of a Newspaper Industry Bailout
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