Newspapers Must Be Allowed To Fail


Our Joe Weisenthal warned you and now New York Times media columnist David Carr is catching on: Washington is inching closer to a newspaper bailout of some sort.

First Senator John Kerry hosted a hearing on the “Future Of Journalism.” Then, ending his keynote at the annual White House correspondents dinner last weekend, President Obama said “a government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts is not an option for the United States of America.”

Ack! We’re not about to stock up on our supply of Lipton’s or anything, but a newspaper bailout of any sort is a completely terrible idea.

The reasons should be obvious, but just in case, here are a few of the easiest-to-remember reasons you can use on your hidebound, nostalgic friends:

Hello! Newspapers are outdated businesses based on outdated tech. How outdated? Printing the New York Times costs twice as much as it would for the paper to send every subscriber a free Amazon Kindle.  Despite that, the New York Times still prints away because it makes most of its profits from the physical paper because it can tell advertisers people read page C8 without having to show proof. On their own, newspapers have shown no ability to move online or develop sustainable post-monopoly businesses. Why should the government tip the competitive balance against media outlets — yes, such as this one — that are actually innovating new ways to spread news and show ads?

Newspapers hurt the environment. The more newspapers die, the less trees have to. Also, newspaper delivery trucks don’t exactly run on carbon-free cold fusion.

Just because newspapers go away doesn’t means sources will. Watergate broke because an FBI agent, aka Deep Throat, didn’t like the way Nixon politicized the FBI — not because Woodward and Bernstein sleuthed it out. Source will always find the biggest megaphone they can to get their views out.

Newspapers aren’t close to too big to fail. Reflections of a Newsosaur writes that newspapers “collectively employ a mere 0.2 per cent of the nation’s labour force and generate only 0.36 per cent of the gross national product.” Tiny!

Bonus arguments, in case your “friends” remain unconvinced:

  • Newspapers only ever thrived because they were monopolies.
  • 66% of people get their news from TV.
  • Newspaper owners think Google is a parasite.
  • Ask them when they last bought a paper, much less subscribed.
  • A government subsidized “free press” isn’t a “free press” at all.

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