Obama open to print bailout, down on rudeness


Barack Obama said he would be happy to consider a bill from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) that would attempt to help struggling newspapers, and decried the tendency of media to focus on the shrill at the expense of the reasonable.

Obama told editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade that he hadn’t seen any of a number of proposals to save newspapers that are percolating in Congress, but said he would be happy to give them a serious look. He said he is a “newspaper junkie,” and expressed doubt that the blogosphere is an adequate replacement.

The Blade quoted Obama saying, “I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding. What I hope is that people start understanding if you’re getting your newspaper over the Internet, that’s not free and there’s got to be a way to find a business model that supports that.”

The Cardin measure would provide tax incentives to newspapers that agree to adopt a non-profit business model. The bill only has one co-sponsor and its ultimate effectiveness is easy to question, starting with whether a tax break can begin to make up for the kinds of losses newspapers are enduring today.

On a similar theme, Obama criticized the media during his Sunday morning blitz, particularly the cable news networks. What irks him is the tendency to feature the loud and rude on news programming rather than people who quietly voice and explain substantive opinions on matters of the day.

He was quoted on CNN saying, “”I think it’s important for the media — you know, not to do any media-bashing here — to recognize that right now, in this 24-hour news cycle, the easiest way to get on CNN or FOX or any of the other stations, MSNBC, is to say something rude and outrageous. If you’re civil and polite and you’re sensible, and you don’t exaggerate the bad things about your opponent, and, you know, you might get on one of the Sunday show but — but you’re not going to be in the loop.” It was a theme repeated at his other media stops.

RBR-TVBR observation: Maybe there’s a case for tax breaks for journalism expenses – but tying a tax break to going non-profit is just nonsensical from the get-go. The problem is that a journalistic outfit that is supposed to act as a watchdog on the government will have a conflict of interest when that same government is making its very existence possible.

Perhaps the government could take a look at the business expenses of a typical journalistic operation and find some way to sand down the edges on the expense side.

But the only real solution is for a corporation with no ties whatsoever with the government to hit upon a business model that will work in the new media environment. We are confident that will happen.

We just don’t know when. Or how.