Watching liberal journalists desperate for a government bailout as they prostrate themselves before Congress can be so confusing:
Should we be embarrassed as these media representatives of the "best and brightest" beg for official handouts while proclaiming their devotion to independent journalism?
Or should we laugh at the irony of what is left of a once-proud liberal media establishment choosing to become wards of the very state they so vigorously promoted for the past several decades?
Speaking as somebody who has made his living reporting and analyzing the news for more than two decades, I tend towards the embarrassment option.
In any case, it's clear that the fix is in and all that is left now is for the liberal journalists and their new masters in government to complete their kabuki dance enroute to congressional approval and presidential signature on a massive package of aid for politically correct newspapers and broadcasters.
You've heard of "too big to fail." Now it's "we're too important to fail, so cough it up, suckers."
Hey, when you can't produce a product enough people are willing to pay for to keep you in business, President Obama and the congressional Democrats are happy to bail you out, you've been helping each other for a long time anyway, you went to the same elite schools, etc. etc.
Actually, maybe "outraged" would be a more accurate word to describe my reaction than "embarrassment." I can't help it; I love journalism, the unique pace and culture of most newsrooms, the smell of printers ink, journalistic lore, the courage and blood required to win journalism's independence, the whole works, and that's why this makes me madder than ...
Anyway, Accuracy in Media's Danny Glover reports from the FTC's two-day workshop coyly entitled "How will journalism survive the Internet Age?" that Rep, Henry Waxman is ready to begin writing legislation.
Liberal journalists and their fellow travelers from the non-profit and academic communities are eager to sign on the dotted line for what used to be called "indentured servitude."
"Rep. Henry Waxman trekked from Capitol Hill to Federal Trade Commission headquarters today to deliver a message to journalists and news consumers: All of you need to reach a consensus about working with the government in order to bail out the struggling news industry.
"The California Democrat, who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't say it quite so bluntly, but his point was clear. 'Government's going to have to be involved, in one way or the other,' to save journalism from an ongoing 'market failure' that will only worsen without intervention, Waxman said," Glover reports.
Happily chirping in with the chorus to Waxman's vocal lead was a media heavy. Glover tells us that Jon McTaggart, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of American Media Group, informed workshop attendees that "as a civil society, we don't trust the open market or the free market" to provide such valuable services.
McTaggart also proclaimed, according to Glover, that the media should not be allowed to suffer because of market forces (aka "consumer choice").
Singing right along with McTaggart, Glover tells us, was Georgetown University communications professor Mark MacCarthy who dismissed critics opposed to a government bailout.
Critics are wrong, he said, because government involvement in the arts, sciences and other fields is "traditional, mainstream and all-American. ... This is not some weird, strange aberration and alien intrusion into our life. This is the way we do things in this country."
Geez, these two guys must have taken a media history course taught by Beatrice and Sydney Webb, who not only founded the British Fabian Society that led the socialization of Great Britain, but also wrote a couple of books praising Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.
McTaggart in particular ought to ring up former GM CEO Rick Waggoner for a little chat about the value of promises of non-intervention by government officials. Waggoner found out the hard way when President Obama summarily - and probably illegally, but what's a mere constitution between friends? - fired him barely hours after professing to have absolutely no desire "to run the auto industry."
Also chirping along to Waxman's song during the workshop was Eric Newton, the powerful vice-president for journalism programs of the wealthy Knight Foundation. Newton, who makes his living doling out money earned by somebody else to causes of his choice, rejected as "mythology" the idea that government has never been involved with media.
"It's a bogus argument that just keeps us from doing the right thing," Newton said, according to Glover. The arogance of this argument is truly breath-taking.
What appalls me when I read comments like those of Newton, MacCarthy and McTaggart is they can't plead Waxman's excuse, which is the same base hypocrisy that explains the empty words of most politicians.
Newton, MacCarthy and McTaggart know better. Newton, for example, claims a government bailout won't compromise media independence because of the same sort of "firewall" that separates advertising and editorial.
Firewalls can work in private businesses when management insists that they be respected, but it's different when government is involved because nobody can say no to power-happy federal bureaucrats armed with regulatory authority or litigious Justice Department attorneys packing subpoenas and make it stick.
This is borne out by researchers at Harvard and Northwestern universities, who recently studied the effect of government advertising on the frequency and intensity of investigative reporting by four Argentine newspapers.
According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, "Harvard’s Rafael Di Tella and Northwestern’s Ignacio Franceschelli, analyze Argentina’s four largest newspapers and find a strong correlation between their willingness to cover government scandal and the amount of money they received from government coffers."
In other words, the more government money there was, the less investigative journalism took place. And vice versa. It doesn't take a multiple regression analysis by a couple of data jockeys at Harvard and Northwestern to figure that out.
That's why for several hundred years, the journalism profession struggled to be free of government regulation. Newton, MacCarthy and McTaggart, and every other intellectually honest journalist, knows that. These guys are choosing to forget it.
What justice it will be if they have to learn the Waggoner lesson the hard way.