Circling the Drain – Maybe the Government Can Help?

Policymakers have woken up to the plight of the newspapers and are on the problem:
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Post Post-Intelligencer

The newsprint carcass of the Seattle PI isn’t even cold yet and we’re already learning new (and perhaps revisionist) things about the departed:

The two best print newspapers in the United States – the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Christian Science Monitor – have just died.

How typical of us not to appreciate what we have until it is gone.

The author then goes on to suggest France as a model for saving newspapers where they are inculcating a (state-subsidized) love for newsprint amongst teenagers.  (Hat tip to John who monitors cutting edge European policy innovations for Platformomics).

image Senator Blowhard to the Rescue

Evidently the newspapers’ problem isn’t a demand issue like declining readership, they are just taxed too much:

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

Easy to offer tax breaks to money-losing entities that don’t pay taxes…

If governments really want to help newspapers, banning the Internet seems like a better way to address the root cause.  Still waiting for a flat-out, cold-hard-cash newspaper bailout, but it can’t be that far off.

3 thoughts on “Circling the Drain – Maybe the Government Can Help?

  1. Joshua Allen

    As always, great post.I’ve been following this whole implosion with some concern over the past couple of years, and would love to get your opinion about something.My gut feeling is that it’s very bad for society; the number of real journalists has dropped dramatically, papers going out of business, and so on.True business and finance journalism is now essentailly inaccessible to normal citizens who cannot afford Bloomberg’s monthly fee.And political investigative journalism is severely weakened.In the meantime, 30% of Americans say that Colbert and Stewart are replacing mainstream news.On the other hand, I remember you explaining to me probably 10 years ago that news was most entertainment anyway.So my question is, am I overreacting?Or to put it a different way: how does the quality and number of "real" journalists today compare with what we had 50 years ago or 100 years ago?I suppose it’s true that we are a lot worse off than we were 10 years ago; but are we really worse off than we were for the rest of the contry’s history?I’m asking because I wouldn’t even know where to start to answer that question.And in the absence of any other informed situation, things look very dire right now.

  2. Charles

    Joshua,I think investigative journalism will survive just fine.It doesn’t have to be wedded to a broadsheet-sized piece of paper. Look at the various episodes in recent years where bloggers have been holding traditional media accountable – investigating the investigator (turns out big media needs scrutiny too). This will only expand and they’re not bottlenecked by a handful of big publications that set their editorial agenda based on an annual run at the Pulitzers.Bloomberg puts a lot on their web site for free. I am amazed by the breadth and depth of reporting and analysis that is out there for free, never mind the paid stuff. It isn’t like the newspapers were free. if you really want news, you can still pay for it.As for the question of how much of the population actually cares what is going on, that I don’t have a solution for. Watching Jon Stewart is probably better than not consuming any news. A lot of those disappearing reporters weren’t exactly Woodward and Bernstein; they were doing entertainment, "cat rescued from tree" stories and content that looked good next to specific kinds of advertising (e.g. the auto section exists because they can sell car ads and need some token content). It is very disruptive for the people and institutions involved, but the world will survive.

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