YES! Editorial. Hey, bail a brother out
The Wall Street investment firms and insurance companies and mortgage companies got a huge federal government bailout this year. The Big Three automakers are begging for a bailout. The airline industry already got a bailout in 2001, and it’s likely they’ll want another one soon. Call it corporate welfare. Call it socialized debt and privatized profits. Call it what you want, but the government has been in the bailout business a long time, at least since 1970 when the feds basically seized six railroad companies to form Consolidated Rail, which it sold in 1987. It bailed out Lockheed Martin (then just Lockheed) in 1971, Chrysler in 1980 and, in 1975, even bailed out New York City with $2.3 billion in emergency loans. In fact, there have been approximately 13 bailouts, depending on how you define them, since the federal government got into the railroad business in 1970, with mixed results. This is why the argument as to whether the government should or shouldn’t bail out large companies in dire fiscal straits is a moot one. The real question is: Which industries or companies should get the money? We offer a humble suggestion. Why don’t we bail out small- to mid-market newspapers? It’s no secret that the industry is in crisis — circulation and advertising revenue are down, and they are losing readers to websites and billboards. Newspapers have incurred massive layoffs this year — 13,411 as of today — and they are being gutted, retooled, stripped down and, in some cities and towns, run the risk of being shut down altogether. The argument for bailouts stipulates that some companies and industries are “too big to fail,” which was the case with AIG, Bear Stearns and General Motors. Newspapers, we posit, are too important to fail. Sure, we could make the Fourth Estate argument: While not serving in any official government capacity, the press is essential to any governed community. We are watchdogs, entertainers and teachers. This applies to all facets of the press. But newspapers are the central nervous system of the media industry. Ideally they are repositories of the historical records of the communities they represent. Obituaries. Business openings and closings. Sports scores. Marriages. Legal notices. We need that stuff, even if we don’t realize it. Not to mention the fact that pretty much every important news story of the last 50 years began with someone carrying a notebook, on the ground getting information. Like it or not, we need newspapers just as much as we need cars, insurance and investment banks. And as long as we’re shoring up our society from the federal coffers, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t throw the newspaper industry a bone.
YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.
We need daily newspapers just as much as we need cars, insurance and investment banks.