I was dismayed and angry to learn recently that the Philadelphia Inquirer is seeking a $10 million government bailout from my home state of Pennsylvania. My own discontent and the discontent of NB commenters over the possible bailout was made clear in my earlier NewsBusters post on the subject but now its apparent that we are not alone. Chris Freind of the Philadelphia Bulletin, the reporter who interviewed Democrat Governor Ed Rendell's press secretary about the Inquirer bailout, has chronicled the reaction to the news.
Nobody interviewed, including the Media Research Center's own Brent Bozell, had anything nice to say about Rendell's plan to give money to the Inquirer:
Reaction to a possible taxpayer-funded bailout of a news entity brought consternation from elected officials, media watchdog organizations and newspaper readers.
“Where does one start?” asked L. Brent Bozell, III, president of the Media Research Center, an Alexandria, Va.-based media watchdog organization. “I would submit that if there were a bailout, it would prove the end of the free-market system in America. There’s no such thing as free enterprise when everything is government owned. It’s called socialism.”
Mr. Bozell said government control of the media, even in the slightest, would be the last thing a journalist would want.
“When a media outlet proposes a bailout, it proposes to put itself under the authority of the entity bailing it out. Therefore, if it’s a government, the media entity proposes to become an arm of the government,” he said.
I think that Mr. Bozell hit the nail right on the head. As I noted in my earlier post, how can we seriously expect the Inquirer to be critical of the government when it's being bankrolled by them? How can a media outlet remain unbiased towards the government when it's relying on that government to stay in business?
But those of us at the Media Research Center are not alone in our criticism:
“I guess my first reaction would have to be, ‘Are you kidding me?,’” said state Rep. Doug Reichley, R-134th, of Lehigh County. “Mack Trucks in Allentown could use a bailout, but I haven’t seen the governor’s office soliciting them to see how much aid they need.”
The legislator, a leader in the effort to reform no-bid contracts, said that had a “better idea” for a bailout.
“Maybe the governor’s office could make the best out of two bad situations by placing slot machines in all the Boscov’s stores,” he said. “That would be a way of drawing shoppers into the failing retail chain he is trying to prop up, and would assist the declining slots revenue until the two Philadelphia slots locations are done with litigation.”
Boscov’s Inc. received a $35 million bailout to rescue the department-store chain from bankruptcy, courtesy of Gov. Rendell’s maneuvering.
Even policy wonks are angry at this proposed bailout regardless of whether it ever becomes reality or not:
“If ‘Papers Matter More Than Ever,’ as Brian Tierney has written, then how is it that journalistic integrity and editorial independence apparently matter less than ever?” asked Colin Hanna, president of the public policy organization Let Freedom Ring.
Mr. Hanna added, “There’s some small difference between moral compromise and the outright selling of one’s soul. This request from The Philadelphia Inquirer seems to me to be the latter.”
And the bailout request has some pointing out that liberal bias is how the Inquirer got itself into this situation in the first place:
A lack of substantive content from the Inquirer was the primary concern of Kevin Kelly, founder of The Loyal Opposition in Philadelphia.
“If the Inquirer didn’t alienate 50 percent of its potential customer base with left-wing nonsense masquerading as news, it wouldn’t be in Harrisburg with a cup in its hand. If I cut my customer base in half, I’d be out of business in a week,” he said.
Others have pointed out the historical importance of an independent government in America, among them is Matthew Brouillette who is the president of the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation:
“Thomas Jefferson understood the importance of a free press in a free society when he said, ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,’” Mr. Brouillette said.
“The Inquirer’s request for a bailout and Gov.Rendell’s entertainment of it must have Jefferson and Franklin rolling over in their graves, and Lenin and Hitler cheering them on.”
Even readers are already starting to poor out their anger at Democrat Ed Rendell and the Inquirer. Here is what Jay Miller who lives just outside of Philadelphia had to say:
“Maybe Ed Rendell will take some notice that not everyone thinks he’s God’s answer to Pennsylvania,” Mr. Miller said. “I will be letting my representative and senator know of my displeasure with even thinking about a bailout!”
Ultimately this kind of dissatisfaction and rage is telling of the affect on a media outlet's credibility that willingness to accept government money entails. Once you ask the government to bankroll you then you can no longer be considered unbiased and trustworthy. It doesn't matter the circumstance or terms of the government bailout. No matter what your credibility is shot.
I'll leave you with Brent Bozel's summation of this Inquirer bailout madness:
Whether or not a deal goes through, Mr. Bozell said, “the reputation of the paper is sullied forever. That a newspaper would even consider prostituting itself like this … is outrageous.”