Is there any industry that Barack Obama won’t bail out of it’s own incompetence ?
Saying he is a “big newspaper junkie,” President Obama expressed hope on Friday that newspapers can find their way through the financial crisis most are now mired in.
In an Oval Office interview with editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade, the President talked about the vital role journalism and newspapers play in American society.
“Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it’s paid for, is really a challenge,” Mr. Obama said. “But it’s something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy.”
Mr. Obama said he noted the trend. “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,” the President said.
“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.”
Where oh where do I start ?
First, the President seems to have forgotten that we don’t live in 1909 and that there other forms of information delivery other than bulky, messy, bricks of paper that arrive on your doorstep, or often in a puddle of water, every morning (mostly). We’ve got radio, we’ve got television, and, yes, we’ve got the Internet. And, contrary to what the President that mainstream media’s advocates might say, not all of the information on the Internet is the blogospher, and not of all the blogosphere is all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context.
Exhibit A ? The protests that have taken place in Iran this summer. If it weren’t for YouTube and Twitter we wouldn’t know half of what we know now about went on there, and what’s still going on.
Exhibit B ? The Dan Rather/Bush National Guard story from the 2004 election. If it weren’t for a few intrepid bloggers who smelled something fishy, the shoddy journalism and outright bias on the part of Rather and others at CBS News would have gone unreported, and that might have changed the course of Presidential election if not history itself.
Furthermore, even though it’s not entirely true, Obama’s complaint about the Internet being “people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding” ignores the history of media itself. Even as recently as 50 years ago, newspapers were hardly unbiased, they were hardly the vanguard of rational debate on issues of the day, and they didn’t always perform their supposed role of information the public. It was the media that hid from the public things like FDR’s affair with Lucy Mercer, his polio, and, most importantly, his deteriorating health during the run-up to the 1944 Presidential election.. They didn’t seriously question the decision to send tens, and then hundreds, of thousands of American troops to die in a Southeast Asian jungle. And they unquestionably accepted the Bush Administration’s representations leading up to the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003.
So, you know, they haven’t exactly done a great job of things over the years.
Finally, the fact of the matter is that we’re on the cusp of a technological revolution that will change the way that news is delivered. Regardless of whether they like it or not, journalists and newspaper editors must prepare for the day when the idea of having a big brick of paper delivered to your door step will seem as quaint and wasteful as buying tons of candles to light your home.
Unless, of course, Obama finds a petition like this appealing:
We come to offer you a wonderful opportunity for your — what shall we call it? Your theory? No, nothing is more deceptive than theory. Your doctrine? Your system? Your principle? But you dislike doctrines, you have a horror of systems, as for principles, you deny that there are any in political economy; therefore we shall call it your practice — your practice without theory and without principle.
We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us .
We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.
Something tells me that Obama just might find the candlemaker’s petition worthy of consideration.