Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fourth Estate Fire Sale

Back around the time our newsletter began, I consulted a station whose owner would gleefully frame and hang on his office walls the last editions of failed newspapers. He had maybe four or five of them.

We all thought it was great fun to find weakness in a strong industry, in a formidable competitor.

If that owner were around today, his walls would be, well, wall to wall with framed failures. And it is no longer great fun.

I for one feel that our society would suffer a great loss were printed media to become extinct. I get a lot of information online, but that medium doesn’t offer the quality or depth of a New York Times or a Wall Street Journal. Yet.

Actually, I’m more of a weekly kind of guy. I keep up to date by listening to the radio and checking my Google Reader, but for perspective, I turn to Time. But in the wake of the Newsweek situation—they are for sale, but who’s going to buy?—I fear for the future of the genre. Those Times are getting pretty thin, after all, reflective of a precipitous drop in circulation.

As much as I lament the inevitable, I have no printable words for the recent FTC idea-floating exercise designed to rob the strong and subsidize the weak—or should I say, rob the just getting by and further subsidize, since periodicals have long enjoyed a more-than-generous postal rate. (All I can say is, this idea is comparable to something else that floats.)

It’s one thing for our federal friends to exercise their power over electronic media to achieve their selfish and/or ill-intentioned ends—the cigarette ad ban and campaign finance reform come to mind—but now they want to add insult to injury by taking our money and giving it to a competing medium?

Why not? Since the beginning of time—well, 1926—we’ve been the low-hanging piƱata for our governmental masters. I can only hope that this floater is so manifestly wacko that for once it’ll be flushed without further ado.

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