Will Newspapers Get a Bailout?




America's newspapers are struggling to survive and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount.


     Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) wrote those words last week in a letter to the Boston Globe regarding the ongoing financial plight of the nation’s newspapers. Kerry advocated for newspapers and how they provide analysis and commentary and diverse opinions, which is particularly needed during an era of media conglomerates and “agenda-driven reporting.” Starting on April 30, Kerry will hold hearings at the Senate Committee on Commerce to discuss the newspaper industries’ economic woes as advertising revenues continue to plummet.

     Writers are jumping into the who-pays-for-content fray as well. On April 12 (“Papers Try to Get Out of a Box”), New York Times media reporter David Carr wrote about efforts in the industry to get papers a slice of the advertising pie since it appears news aggregator Google News is leaving nothing but crumbs. Carr mentioned how many papers are now pursuing the possibility of putting virtual walls on their Web sites, which would prevent readers from viewing content unless they pay for it. David Denby, a film critic for The New Yorker, doesn’t think too much of that idea (Denby referred to the notion as a “Bummer,” although he didn’t follow it with the requisite “dude,” as in, “Bummer, dude.”) In a letter to the Times, Denby proposed a single monthly fee paid by consumers, which would be collected by Internet service providers and would allow people to read content on any Web site that was part of the service. 

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