Bailing out the newspaper industry or creating an “AmeriCorps for journalism” (topics covered in the following Reason.tv video, via Instapundit) may sound like wacky, liberal fantasies, and they are absolutely contrary to the First Amendment notion of a free press. But neither is outside the realm of possibilities in an era when more and more people think government is the answer to everything.
Just yesterday, a small town in North Carolina granted the local weekly newspaper its financial wish for a $50,000 loan that will be used to print more copies of the paper and expand its staff and headquarters.
Kelly McBride, ethics group leader for the Poynter Institute, understands the reason for concern. “It is problematic that a news organization would ask a government agency for a loan,” she said. “It throws a monkey wrench into the whole watchdog role. Journalism organizations in general believe that, as bad as things are now, they would not take a public bailout. Independence is a key, core value of journalism.”
But the paper’s publisher had no qualms about the deal for one simple reason — he needed money. Town officials, meanwhile, rationalized the arrangement as a worthwhile investment in “economic development.”
American journalism will change for the worse if their way of thinking prevails.