US Senate hearings slated on newspapers' future

The US government is reaching out a hand to newspapers -- holding hearings soon on the industry's condition and presumably considering a bailout package.

Newspapers should be very wary. Bailout money sure sounds good, and there's so much of it flying around these days that it seems less a big deal. But it is.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, or free lunch money. If the government gives out cash it wants, and does deserve, some control and at least oversight of the people receiving it. See the hyperventilation over AIG bonuses and the current federal "stress tests" of banks to determine which ones are allowed to survive.

Newspapers should not, in fact may not, accept any such deals. "Congress shall make NO LAW ... abridging ... the freedom of the press." The Bill of Rights isn't a covenant newspapers can waive, even if they're desperate enough to want to.

Imagine in a year or three the federal government conducting "stress tests" of US newspapers and ordering those who fail to shut down. Imagine the chilling effect on a press that depends on the government to stay alive. Now is the time to avoid that.


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