The following are some thoughts from Laura Beth, a friend of mine who is a conservative woman and involved deeply in the community and regional politics. I am posting as is...
For those of you who don’t believe that an assault on our First Amendment rights is brewing, get a load of this.
LA Times op-ed columnist and a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center Rosa Brooks has joined the Obama administration as an advisor to the undersecretary of Defense for policy, but not before writing her final column on April 9 calling for a federal bailout of the newspaper industry. In her article Brooks advocates increasing "direct government support” for public media (scary!) and, even scarier, creating licenses to govern news operations.
Our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves if Ms. Brooks’ proposal were to come to fruition. Not only does it fly in the face of one of the very first issues expressly addressed in the Bill of Rights, it’s incredible that an adviser to our federal government would even consider bailing out an industry that “free enterprise and competition marked for failure – or a transition into something else,” as Ken McIntyre, media & public policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, so rightly points out.
Brooks admits that (she) "can't imagine anything more dangerous than a society in which the news industry has more or less collapsed". And on this point, I wholeheartedly agree. But what Brooks is missing is the fact that the news industry isn't collapsing - it's merely evolving with new technology.
People my generation and younger obtain their news differently than previous generations, and have vastly different expectations of the type of the news we read. We get most of our news from the internet and expect it to be both immediate and free. Not only that, but we may also read the same story from several different sources in order to formulate our own thoughts and opinions on the subject. Newspapers, and even the nationally televised news channels, simply cannot meet our needs and expectations. Mark my words, before too long, newspapers and television news will join scrolls and stone tablets in the graveyard for obsolete media.
Ms. Brooks, this is not the time to cry “Do not go gentle into that good night”; instead, it’s time to recognize that the aging prize-fighter’s winning streak is over, and allow the champ to disappear quietly with his dignity.
Providing a licensing system and/or a bailout package in the hopes of reviving the struggling news media industry is not only expressly contrary to the rights expressly granted to the people by our federal Constitution, but also completely disregards the valid reasons that these rights were granted to us in the first place.
The term “free press” obtained its origins from the abolishment of licensing printer/publishers. In 1688, when England abolished the office of Imprimenteur, “works could then be published without first obtaining the permission of the government officer”, as Thomas Paine elegantly explained in his 1806 letter on the Liberty of the Press.
In fact, the common law view to this very circumstance was expressly addressed in Blackstone’s Commentaries, a major legal text of the 18th century. It reads, "To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser, as was formerly done, both before and since the Revolution, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion and government."
One of the primary reasons for the freedom of the press clause in the First Amendment is to eliminate government censure, but the practice of licensing journalists would practically guarantee that widespread censure is exactly what would occur.
Preventing governmental censure is also a primary reason that the media should reject any and all “direct government support”. If the government is licensing and financially supporting the national news media, they are merely a hairsbreadth away from controlling its content. Then, what would be the point? Joel Brinkley, a visiting professor or journalism at Stanford University said “no one would trust the news industry if it accepted heaps of government money.“ And you know what? I think he’s right.
However, it’s already started. In a March 18 article in The Nation, John Nichols & Robert McChesney admit that “Today the government doles out tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies, including free and essentially permanent monopoly broadcast licenses, monopoly cable and satellite privileges, copyright protection and postal subsidies”, as if calling the postal subsidies instead of mini-bailouts will make it all better. So far, the Obama administration has been silent on the issue, and media experts don’t believe that there will be any chance of an actual bailout for the newspaper industry. Even so, legislation is in the works to allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofits as long as they don’t endorse political candidates, effectively censuring editorial columns nation-wide in one fell swoop of the pen.
I am positively flabbergasted that the movement supporting a “broadsheet bailout” is gaining momentum. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Ms. Brooks apparently isn’t on her own; several formal journalists from media powerhouses such as the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and the Washington Post have gone to work for the Obama administration after the ax had fallen. But what gets me is that it now seems as if the journalists’ self-preservation is quickly superseding the defense of rights that journalists have fought for centuries to protect because of their advocacy of programs that would essentially eliminate the freedom of the press.
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