Senator wants to bail out horse and buggy industry.

By • on March 27, 2009

newspaper Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin recently introduced a bill to help the failing newspaper industry. The bill would allow newspaper companies to restructure as non profits with a variety of tax breaks. While the bill has not attracted any co-sponsors, it has attracted the interest of many within the media. Like many industries, newspapers have seen plunging revenues and may journalist layoffs. But unlike many industries, the newspaper industry is a dinosaur whose usefulness is long past.

In the information age, people no longer rely on newspapers for information and news. With widespread access to the Internet, not only newspapers but magazines and periodicals have seen dramatic drops in readership. The problem is not so much the sagging economy as it is that people no longer find newspapers relevant or useful. No bailout bill from Washington is going to rescue the newspaper industry from a death due to natural causes.

In a statement that rings false, Senator Cardin said that his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. I think it is aimed at bailing out papers like the New York Times and other newspaper that have a liberal slant to them. I wonder how much money newspapers like the New York Times have contributed to senators like Cardin? Even local and community newspapers would be better served if they were to switch from printed medium to primarily a web site with only limited printed copies.

The old saying, you can’t swat a fly with a radio station and you can’t line a birdcage with MSNBC is more relevant now that ever. Printed newspapers are headed the way of the horse and buggy. There is no more sense in trying to bail out the newspaper industry in it’s present form as there would have been in bailing out the horse and buggy industry after the advent of the automobile.

There is also the matter of a bailed out newspaper being beholding to the government for its continued existence. I think there would be a chilling effect on the ability of a newspaper to operate objectively and without self-censorship. I cannot see a newspaper whose existence is dependent on government policy publishing articles critical of the same government that is holding their future in its hands.

If newspapers are to survive, they must change with the times. Government intervention is not the solution for everything, contrary to what many people believe. Sometimes you just have to let an obsolete industry just fade away.

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