In a Pittsburgh Post Gazette interview, president Obama said that he would be open to looking at the Newspaper Revitalization Act, a bill proposed to help bail out fledgling papers by restructuring them into non-profit organizations. Search anywhere on the internet and you can find any number of supporting and critical articles of the bill. Personally, I feel it’s a pretty weak attempt at revitalizing failing big media outlets, but it’s at least a start in transforming news from the profit hungry spectacle we see today.
Expect the ultra right to jump hard on this in the coming weeks, shouting about America’s soon to be socialist state run media. Even though a bill such as this would likely help those same ultra right conservatives who run papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times, an opportunity to showcase Democrats as fascists won’t go to waste. Obama though, reflected the interest of big media business, saying in the interview “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.” There’s nothing even vaguely “socialist” about that – it’s a defense of our worship at the altar of the free market – but don’t expect the facts to hold back pundits.
When asked about the state of journalism, Obama replied “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.” One could easily apply that entire statement to most cable news programming which dovetails with what’s in newspapers, especially considering most parent companies own both cable outlets and newspapers.
Right now, media – be it print, internet, music, television, whatever – is vital to our culture. Unfortunately, ignorant vitriol replaces vibrant thought with every push for profit. Big media lost its standing in the “free market” when it became a mouthpiece for PR firms, lobbyists and government. The blogosphere filled a gaping void in our media. Not only did blogs and the internet take back writing and journalism from gated towers to the streets, but sites like Media Matters do more fact checking in an hour than Fox does in a day.
If we’re serious about saving newspapers, the Revitalization Act could be a start, but big media needs to pull away from “shouting at each other across the void” and be a service for the people, not profit.
Aaron Cynic is a zine writer, internet radio host, blogger, musician, and project organizer from Chicago. He mainly publishes a zine called Diatribe, but has published a few other one shot zines. Aaron has also contributed to numerous other websites and publications. His radio show appears Sunday nights at 8pm on Punk and Beans Radio. You can reach Aaron by emailing aaron @ diatribemedia dot com.