FILE – In this Oct. 4, 2018 file photo, a Trump supporter holds up a T-shirt reading “You Are Fake News” before a rally by President Donald Trump in Rochester, Minn. Local members of the media says they’ve noticed more hostility from the public since Trump began his attacks on ‘fake news.’ Trade groups are spreading safety tips because of the incidents. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
A group of Democrat senators made the Sunday rounds yesterday promoting their latest bright idea. Namely, they want the federal government to bailout the journalism industry, though they are couching is as help for “local” news.
Here’s Sen. Angus King promoting his wish to CNN’s Brian Stelter.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) April 12, 2020
I’m gonna go with a no on this one.
Bailouts are already a tricky subject to navigate. As a general rule, they shouldn’t be done, though perhaps they are sometimes necessary when the government creates an environment that crushes businesses. We saw that in Republican support for the Wuhan virus relief package.
Regardless, if a bailout does happen, it should be targeted at accomplishing certain goals. Namely, they should mitigate economic damage and invest toward future growth that benefits all Americans. For example, if the airline industry goes away, that hurts everyone. Keeping them afloat will pay dividends down the road when things return to normal.
Can the same be said about journalists? One, there’s little evidence the current downturn has had much of any effect on the journalism industry. Wuhan virus doesn’t stop people from writing stories (i.e. I’m writing this story right now), doing investigations, and generally sharing the news. It may stop in-studio hits, but there are ways around that. Two, local news stations were already a dying industry before all this happened. Why do they need a bailout tied to the current pandemic?
Lastly, the “journalism industry” doesn’t actually produce anything of unique value. It’s not like the oil industry or food industry, which impact everyday Americans across the board and provide sustained growth to the American economy. You don’t prop up dying industries that offer no promise of future growth. If you gave every journalist who needs it a bailout today, they’d be broke again in six months. Technology has changed and the national media have so destroyed the credibility of all journalism that the stomach for a revival isn’t there.
In a way, it’s ironic that Stelter is the one doing this interview. He and others like him share the lion’s share of the blame for the hardship some in their industry are facing. It is what it is, but there should be no bailout. Any future relief must be focused and targeted to help fight the virus and its impact, not be a giveaway to chosen groups.