As the economic crisis intensifies, newspapers may well be the canary in the coal mine. Now Congress looks ready to provide some fresh air to the industry.
Regular newspapers were already struggling with declining revenues due to competition from the internet. Sites like Craigslist have devastated their classified ads. Google and other search engines are drawing more ad dollars away from print media. If that's not enough, readership is declining as young people get their news on the web. If all those problems weren't enough, the recession has sucked the remaining wind out of newspapers' sails.
But the good times are here again. Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress announced plans Sunday to rescue newspapers. Under the proposal, $20 billion will be diverted from the $700B financial bailout to help. The US government will assume ownership of most national and regional newspapers. Some in Congress were concerned about potential criticism over government controlling the media, but polls show most people figured that bias was in place beforehand.
Prominent newspapers accepting government control include the Boston Globe, all Hearst papers, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune (which was already in Obama's camp), The Onion, and the Los Angeles Times. A few papers are expected to hold out from the deal, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and TheSpoof.com. The Journal and the Times figure they will make more money by staying private, while owners of TheSpoof.com were too drunk to fill out the half-page of paperwork.