Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 21, 2010 / 10 Menachem-Av, 5770

Does the press deserve a bailout?

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Are government subsidies the cure for what ails the news business? Add Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, to the roster of eminentoes who think the answer is yes.

In a new book, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century, Bollinger argues that the condition of the mainstream press, which is slowly being crushed under the treads of the Internet, "may become so grave as to require injections of public funds." In fact, he is convinced "that this will prove to be the only way to sustain a free press over time."

Bollinger isn't the only one who would like to see taxpayers propping up the news industry. Last year, Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland proposed legislation that would allow newspapers to operate as non-profits and be supported with tax-deductible contributions.

More recently, the Federal Trade Commission released a "discussion draft paper" containing a raft of proposals "to support the reinvention of journalism." Many of them were schemes for funneling money from the government to the media. Among the FTC's suggestions: increased funding for public television and radio, the creation of a National Fund for Local News, a tax credit to news organizations for every journalist they hire, and even a new "journalism" division of AmeriCorps ("to ensure that young people who love journalism will stay in the field").

According to one estimate, such a package of subsidies could cost as much as $35 billion a year. Where would that money come from? The FTC ran all kinds of revenue ideas up the flagpole: Authorize the Small Business Administration to insure loans to nonprofit journalism organizations. Increase postal subsidies for newspapers and periodicals. Levy a new tax on commercial broadcasters -- or on consumer electronics -- or on TV and radio advertising -- or on cell phone Internet service.

But why should journalists be entitled to a multi-billion-dollar batch of media subsidies?

I have been working for newspapers for the past 23 years, and my retirement is still a long way off. Needless to say, the viability of newspapers is not a subject I take lightly. Nor do I minimize the significance of the news media and traditional journalism, with all their flaws and failings, to modern democracy and civil society. But does my esteem for the news business -- or Bollinger's or Cardin's or the FTC's -- justify government intervention to keep it alive?

Subsidies always amount, in the end, to confiscating money from many taxpayers in order to benefit relatively few. Those who call for keeping newspapers and other old media alive with injections of public funds are really saying that if people won't support those forms of journalism voluntarily, they should be made to do so against their will. I believe every American family should subscribe to one or two newspapers and read them regularly. But that doesn't give me the right to make you pay for a subscription you don't want -- not even if I think you would be better off for it. How can the government have the right to do, in effect, the same thing?

The argument for most government subsidies is that the activity they support generates a larger public benefit -- a benefit that would be lost if it were left up to the marketplace. In a Wall Street Journal essay last week, Bollinger claims that "trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown -- a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance."

But for the better part of two centuries, newspapers flourished in the market. They are struggling now not because there is no commercial value to "provid[ing] all the news coverage we need," but because millions of consumers have come to prefer other vehicles for getting that news. There hasn't been a market failure, only a market transformation.

I would welcome a new lease on life and profitability for newspapers, and I value high-quality journalism, but the two are not synonymous. Whatever happens to the traditional media, journalism and news delivery will find profitable ways to endure. Like it or not, the transition from old to new is happening. The best thing the government can do is stay out of the way.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2010, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles