Tonight President Obama will address Congress in what is basically the State of the Union address (though officially not the State of the Union, because first-year Presidents don't deliver that. I know; go figure).
One thing I wish he'd talk about, but know he won't, is where the bailouts are for the newspaper industry.
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As we've published in The Telegraph over the last couple of weeks, we will start printing the paper in Columbus and have another round of layoffs very soon because our parent company, McClatchy, is trying to pay off its debt. Yet the government has done nothing to help the Fourth Estate.
My question is this: What good is having a free press if there is no press? Yes, many of the problems facing newspapers are self-inflicted, such as giving the product away for free on the internet while devaluing the print product, and some of the problems are outside of the realm of anyone's control, such as the poor economy cutting out ad dollars.
Still, why can't the government simply designate part of the $700 billion going to the banks to use to cover the debt payments for corporations such as McClatchy? The banks are still getting their money, and the news industry would be able to sustain itself better through the recession. Fewer cuts would have to be made and more people could keep their jobs, allowing for a stronger free press. Everyone wins.
Some of my colleagues have dismissed this idea, saying it won't work for the simple idea that we can't accept money from a government we are supposed to cover. And there is truth to that.
But here are some points I would bring up. One, PBS and NPR are both funded by public money, and no one is accusing those organizations of being mouthpieces for the government. So why would newspapers be different?
Two, newspapers accept ad dollars from local businesses, yet we don't give those businesses preferential treatment when it comes to local news. We separate the two.
Finally, there's common sense. Newspapers are a business, just like anyone else. If they go out of business, how will the public be served? Newspaper articles are more read than ever these days; the problem is, they are read online through search engines like Yahoo or Google, which carries little benefit to the paper that produces such articles.
The founding fathers stressed the importance of a free press, and in these days where we have a war on two fronts, terror on a global scale and an economy on the verge of collapse, the role of the media is more important than ever. I think it's a consideration the government needs to take into account.
TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: With Obama's address covering at least 90 minutes, there's not a whole lot of new stuff on tonight. "NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is new among the network dramas, while "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 8 p.m.) runs a shortened edition among the reality shows, opposite "Homeland Security" on ABC.
The CW has a new episode of "Privileged" at 9 p.m.
On cable, the first season of "Leverage" (TNT, 10 p.m.) wraps up while "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 10 p.m.) is also new.