You Can’t Reinvent The Wheel, But You Can Reinvent The Scribe

Mark Tapscott at The Washington Examiner:

Release of the Federal Trade Commission’s working paper on “reinventing journalism” makes it clear that there is no more time for diplomacy about this issue: President Obama is determined to federalize the news industry just as he has banking, autos, and health care.

Everybody who wants independent journalism had better wake up to these three facts about what is going:

* Journalists must understand that there is no way the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press will survive if the federal government regulates the news industry as envisioned by the FTC. Those who accept at face value protests to the contrary or the professions of pure intentions by advocates of government takeover of the news business are, at best, incredibly naive.

* Journalists who remain silent or apathetic about what is being prepared by the FTC for their profession become unintentional accessories in the strangulation of independent journalism.

* Journalists who support or assist, for any reason, the FTC process are accomplices in the strangulation of independent journalism.

Those in the administration who clearly view independent journalism as an obstacle to “change we can believe in” and their numerous allies in the old media, non-profit, and academic communities who either share a similar ideological vision or see the FTC process as their salvation against the Internet, will no doubt dismiss my assertions as extemism or alarmism.

Fine, call me whatever, but what they cannot deny is what is clearly written in the FTC document and what it reveals about the intention behind the initiative, which is to transform the news industry from an information product collected by private individuals and entrepreneurs as a service to private buyers, to a government-regulated public utility providing a “public good,” as defined and regulated by government.

Instapundit

Val Prieto at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Want to see the nine scariest words in the English language today?

Yes?

Try this on for size:

“Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.”

It’s not enough that we can arguably state that the guy sitting in that oval office at 1600 Pennsylvania today was basically put in there by the Mainstream Media. It’s not enough that said MSM can arguably be called “water carriers” for the current administration. And it’s not enough that we can arguably state that that same MSM is in deep, deep denial over their selling us the Presidential snake oil.

Nope.

Just imagine how fair and balanced the news will be once the MSM and their “journalists” are “reinvented.” And of course, it wouldn’t be in keeping with this administration’s modus operandi if we didn’t add a little insult to injury along with a good dose of salt to the wound: Just imagine how this “reinvented journalism” will undoubtedly be subsidized.

Good times lie ahead, fellow taxpayers. Soon, not only will be we regaled with what we’ll be assured – for our own good, natch – will be “fair and balanced” coverage of this administration’s opaque transparency but we’ll be footing the bill.

Andrew Malcolm at The Los Angeles Times:

True, there have been government subsidies over the decades in the form of below-cost postal rates and printing contracts. But this FTC study is rated R for anyone who thinks the federal government, the object of copious news coverage itself, has no business deciding which sectors of the private media business survive and thrive through its support, subsidies and encouragement with things like tax incentives.

Yet that’s what this Obama administration paper is suggesting as another of the ex-community organizer’s galactic reform plans.

Would you believe: major changes to the copyright law, including government licensing provisions; government pilot programs to investigate potential new media business models, antitrust changes to allow media companies to unite on imposing online pay walls, establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists, tax incentives per news employee, increased funding of public broadcasting, a 5% tax on consumer electronics and/or assessments on users of public airwaves.

Another idea would be to allow taxpayers to direct a portion of their taxes — perhaps up to $200 — to a specific media institution as payment for media services rendered. (Now, if taxpayers could direct such sums to individual bloggers…. )

Ed Morrissey:

The next two paragraphs are just as Orwellian:

Economics provides insight into why this has been the case. The news is a “public good” in economic terms. That is, it is non-rivalrous (one person’s consumption of the news does not preclude another person’s consumption of the same news) and non-excludable (once the news producer supplies anyone, it cannot exclude anyone). Because free riding is usually easy in these circumstances, it is often difficult to ensure that producers of public goods are appropriately compensated.

In addition, the news can produce benefits that spread much beyond their readers. For example, investigative reporting that results in a staff shakeup in a local hospital can produce better health care for patients in the future, but the news organization that produced that story will receive, at best, limited compensation (perhaps through increased readership) related to having spurred those benefits.

Declaring news a “public good” is nothing more than a rhetorical cover for demanding government oversight of it.  “Free riding” is apparently defined as linking to and quoting news from a media source.  This is an absurd issue for federal intervention, as a remedy for those media outlets is readily available: membership-only access.  It also discounts the fact that the eeeeeeeeeevil aggregators, including yours truly, direct traffic to those sites through links, arguably boosting the bottom lines of the media outlets, especially since readers are usually inclined to double-check the assumptions made by the aggregators.  There is a reason that newspapers send out tip e-mails on a daily basis to bloggers, and it’s not because they are unhappy about bloggers “free-riding” their output.

Beyond that, the FTC apparently also wants to set a standard of what is “appropriate” compensation.  Who’s to say what is appropriate?  Shouldn’t the market determine the compensation?  Does the government fix prices on computers, televisions, and radios, by which consumers access other news media? This looks like an attack on blogs — and an attempt to turn back the clock to 1993 in terms of the voice that news consumers have in news delivery.

Erick Erickson at Redstate

Jeff Jarvis at Huffington Post:

If the FTC truly wanted to reinvent journalism, the agency would instead align itself with journalism’s disruptors. But there’s none of that here. The clearest evidence: the word “blog” is used but once in 35 pages of text and then only parenthetically as an example of buying ads on topical sites (“e.g., a soccer blog…”); otherwise, it’s only a footnote. The only mention of investing in technology — the agent of disruption — comes on the 35th page (suggesting R&D for tools such as “improved electronic note-taking”). There’s not a hint of seeing a new ecosystem of news emerge — the ecosystem we study and support at CUNY — except as the entry of nonprofit entities that, by their existence, give up on the hope the market will sustain news.

If the FTC truly wanted to rethink journalism and its new opportunities and new value in our democracy, it would have written this document from the perspective of the people it is supposed to represent: the citizens, examining how we can benefit from news that is newly opened to the opportunity of collaboration and greater relevance. Instead, the document is written wholly from the perspective of the companies and institutions of the industry.

The document, like good government work, does a superb job of trying very hard to say very little. From its hearings and research, the staff outlines proposals I find frightening, but many of them are as politically absurd as they are impossible — e.g., what I’ll dub the iPad tax to put a 5% surcharge on consumer electronics to raise $4 billion for public funding of news — and the document doesn’t endorse them.

Still, it’s the document’s perspective that I find essentially corrupt: one old power structure circling its wagons around another. Change? That’s something to be resisted or thwarted, not embraced and enabled. The FTC’s mission in this administration of change — its justification for holding these hearings and doing this work — is to foster competition. Well, the internet is creating new competition in news for the first time since 1950 and the introduction of TV. But the commission focuses solely on newspapers, apologizing that it ignores broadcast — but not even apologizing for ignoring the new ecosystem of news that blogs and technology represent.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen and Julian Sanchez at Bloggingheads

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1 Comment

Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures

One response to “You Can’t Reinvent The Wheel, But You Can Reinvent The Scribe

  1. Pingback: What We’ve Built This Weekend « Around The Sphere

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