Having watched as shovelfuls of public money has been heaped on bankers and, lately in the US, should-be bankrupt car makers, a production editor friend and I joked that it would be nice to see the government bail out the ailing publishing industry.
Unbelievably, it seems that this is actually being talked about in La-La land [now clearly the whole US, not just LA].
From The Nation via Reason magazine:
Just as there came a moment when policy-makers recognized the necessity of investing tax dollars to create a public education system to teach our children, so a moment has arrived at which we must recognize the need to invest tax dollars to create and maintain news gathering, reporting and writing with the purpose of informing all our citizens.
Frankly, this is insane. If print publishing is on the ropes because not enough people now want to pay money for it, then clearly its time is up. Prop it up with subsidies and, worse, exclude new competition like the web by, say, requiring blogs to be licensed, and you stifle free expression [ie people writing stuff about stuff], and also stunt technological advancement.
A cautionary tale is how AT&T resisted the technological advances that would become the web a few decades ago.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, AT&T—while creating the greatest network on earth—also killed long-distance competition, bottled up new technologies like the cell phone and home answering machine, and resisted the innovations that were later known as “the Internet.”
Vested interests don’t like change. And that generally isn’t in the interests of people. Even if they claim it is.
The car bailout is barking enough. No one wants to buy GM cars. Put it through Chapter 11, restructure it, get rid of the crappy management, which could be done without Executive Order, and make better things cheaper. Or go bust. Whatever replaces it will offer jobs making better stuff that more people want to buy. That’s basically how it works.
But a publishing bailout? This is the height of insanity.