The president of Columbia University, a Dr Bollinger, has a big piece in the WSJ of 7/14/10 entitled: “Journalism Needs Government Help.” It was just like this; I am not making this up.
I read it attentively, looking for a sign that the piece was tongue-in-cheek. It wasn’t. The man is dead serious. He does not seem very smart. For one thing, he does not know English well. He does not understand what the verb “to decimate” means. His article begins with the words, “ We have entered a momentous period….” No shit, as if there were others!
The president makes all the familiar liberal arguments to the effect that when something does not work, the government should take it over and support it so it can continue not working. In this case, though the president is not talking about a single company, such as GM, but about hundreds of companies. His band of reference is a slew of newspaper companies that have proven, are proving over and over again, that the paying public desires less and less what they peddle. After all, a daily newspaper is until now one of the cheapest deals around. It’s still cheaper than a cup of mediocre coffee, in most places. Of course, retail prices would be higher if the newspapers were not also supported by advertisers. Dr Bollinger: People don’t want to spend 75 cents, or a dollar for what newspaper organizations put out. Advertisers have no confidence either.
Why would I pay with my tax dollars for an option for my neighbors that my neighbors don’t want?
In a half-page article, Dr Bollinger, the university president, fails to do what all scholars are trained to do: Look for exceptions to his broad generalizations. Yes, the printed press is generally in trouble all over America, but not all of it. It turns out, that the Wall Street Journal does not have the chronic financial problems of its main rival, the New York Times. No one at the WSJ is asking for a government hand-out. It turns out, for an other example, that the libertarian-conservative Weekly Standard is flourishing while another weekly, Newsweek, is bankrupt. Are those facts irrelevant, Dr Bollinger or is it possible you are not even aware of them?
Dr Bollinger has the common decency to address the idea that federal government financial support of the press raises severe First Amendment issues. Can the freedom of the press the First Amendment guarantees survive a situation where journalists get their paycheck from President Obama, or from President Palin, for that matter? To my huge surprise, Dr Bollinger answers in the affirmative.
No problem, he says, look at previous examples such as the undeniably useful Voice of America (a small government networks broadcasting overseas that liberals have done their best to eviscerate). Here, the President of Columbia University commits a big error that this former teacher would have roundly condemned if it had come from a college sophomore. Yet, it’s a mistake that’s not surprising emanating from an adult liberal because these people have not thought anything new for years. They operate from dogma alone.
Here is the mistake: Dr Bollinger confuses the need of ordinary Americans to be informed, with the American government’s need to inform some categories of people, including foreigners. The president does not understand the difference between free information, which has to be varied and, of necessity chaotic, and orderly government propaganda (again, of the kind I approve in the examples he choses ). Dr Bollinger is a dunce, a dangerous one because of the position he occupies! Pass it on.
I am wondering whether the Wall Street journal did not publish Dr Bollinger’s demonstration of gross ignorance out of sheer viciousness, to expose this kind of non-thinking to the cruel lights of a good periodical.
Dr Bollinger: Much of the printed press is dying because it deserves to die. It had failed to adapt to new circumstances such as the Internet – which have not been really new for more than ten years, by the way. It’s a dinosaur. It’s not even an honest dinosaur. It dishes out boring propaganda at intervals that are not even regular. Occasionally, the best of its numbers engages in outright and persistent fraud. (If this sounds extremist, look up “New York Times – Jason Blair.”) I don’t want to pay for my neighbors’ fantasy life, if I have such neighbors. I probably don’t have such neighbors. Most people are like me: They get their news from sources they trust including some they are happy to pay for. (I spend about ½ of 1% of my moderate net income on information providers of all kinds. I could easily do with less but it’s money well spent.)
Many journalists will become unemployed, it’s true. So are many other Americans unemployed. Some of the unemployed will start their own media ventures. They will be more honest than the current tottering giants. Others will no doubt join the ranks of government employees since the federal government is the only creator of jobs right now. At least, as direct government bureaucrats they will be rendered comparatively impotent, unable to do as much harm as they would as government-supported so-called “journalists.” You can hire a few of the remainder to teach Journalism at Columbia University’s vaunted school of journalism. As a former colleague, I advise you that the school could create a few new courses, such as: “Dead Journalism,” and “The Print Press: The Passing of an Empire.” Also, read this blog it’s more informative than many still-existing newspapers. I am not bragging; the standards are really low.