My journalism teacher in high school asked the students on the first day of class what was purpose of journalism. We all answered idealistically: “To provide information.” “To monitor our government and expose corruption.” “To tell people’s stories.” He responded emphatically: “WRONG! The purpose of journalism is to make money!”
Now he wasn’t being cynical. He understood journalism did all the things that we mentioned, but he wanted us to understand that none of these could be accomplished without the journalistic entity’s ability to make a profit. Like it or not we were in the entertainment business and people had to feel that what we did was worthy of their attention and their money for subscriptions so that businesses would be willing to pay to put ads in our product, because that’s where the customers were.
Thus, journalism suffers when the economy suffers. It is not exempt from the laws of economics. Unfortunatley there are those who wish to make it so and are willing to incorporate socialistic business practices to do so. Thus, when the New Hampshire paper the Claremont Eagle-Times went belly up because it could not make profit anymore, the state of New Hampshire stepped in and offered a subsidy of economic development money to keep the presses rolling as Free Stater Bill Walker pointed out in this article on Lew Rockwell.com.
In journalism class we were presented with situational ethics questions constantly, like what to do is a suspect in a murder investigation happened to be the son of prominent advertiser in the paper, and so forth. Of course we were always told to avoid conflict of interest situations as much as possible to preserve the credibility of the product. Now here we have the biggest conflict of interest of all, a government financed newspaper. Apparently nobody thought that subject ever would come up because journalists seem divided as to what to do.
I myself, as a working journalist, would like to proudly say I would never work in journalism if my paper became a Pravda. Of course, my wife might take issue with that considering my salary and mortgage. I’m not going to judge the employees of the Eagle-Times who are no doubt happy to have jobs again. But they must now realize that the news buying public views that as a subsidiary of the state, which they now are. Thus, how they report the news from the state government that pays their bills affects their credibility. The very situation they were supposed to avoid they have now become a party to. Some may say, “Well, the BBC is owned by the government. And no one calls it a Pravda.” Perhaps, although some critics might quibble with that notion considering the BBC’s lack of in depth and investigative coverage of the run up to Gulf War II. But even if the BBC has more freedom than most state run media entities (like say, Iran for example), it’s also going tailor its coverage to make sure it doesn’t bite the hand that feeds them. It’s not going to become, say, The Sun or the Daily Mail for example. Thus, such public ownership affects the way the journalistic outlet is run, subtle or not. If such claims of subtle control affects news coverage from the corporately owned media, according to the Left, why would it be different when it’s the state paying the bills instead of Rupert Murdoch?
Of course if one such media outlet receives a subsidy to keep it in business, other such entities like troubled radio and TV stations and other newspapers will do the same now that the cat is out of the bag. Such subsidies may very well be loans, but the state will have an interest to prevent defaults by providing subsidies year after year and may very well increase it’s so-called duty to the public annually.
While it is nice that a community has a local media outlet, be it a radio or TV station or a newspaper, there’s nothing out that says it MUST have one and it is not worth the price of its freedom and its quality to keep it going just to maintain a news outlet (if we go by that theory the state might as well subsidize old steel mills or old factories). If such paper or TV station or radio station could not survive, then the community must not have appreciated its survival all that much. In this day an age, the public has any number of outlets to get information from and newspaper, like any other form of media have to learn to adapt and survive. But they won’t be able to do so if they switch from planning to lining-up at the state house awaiting their handouts.