If journalism needs “government help,” it’s not journalism.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama admits that media bias is a problem. “The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history.”
Obama was addressing a question about Fox News, but it’s the rest of the old media that are the problem. And that problem begins even before journalists get out of school. Since so many in the media have supported the president, perhaps they will heed his complaint and learn from it.
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s July 14 commentary in the Wall Street Journal is a classic example of how bad things have gotten in journalism. Bollinger actually confused freedom of the press with freedom to oppress. The man who heads up a college with one of the most well-known journalism schools actually argued against freedom of the press.
A free press is a foundation of a free society. For any university president to argue against it would seem unusual. When it’s also the head of the Columbia School of Journalism, then people on both left and the right have reason to scratch their heads in bewilderment.
Bollinger has called for federal funding of the media in a piece with the terrifying headline: “Journalism Needs Government Help.” He advocates for the creation of an “American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters.” And he wants government to pay for it.
This is not just a bad idea, it’s a dangerous one. Bollinger naively thinks that government can serve the roles of guardian and supporter of the free press without endangering the very freedom he claims to regard.
To make his case that the U.S. needs to “strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena,” Bollinger cites state-run operations in Communist China, Qatar’s al Jazeera and the BBC, all with their own biases. State control, propaganda and spin are the new models for American journalism according to the man in charge of one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the United States.
But Bollinger’s commentary piece was only a hint at his disturbing agenda for the news. His book Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century is actually far more alarming. It is a treatise on how government should control media. That’s a position also embraced by the current administration, from the FCC to looking at the future of the entire news industry.
In furtherance of a “free press,” the book calls for an “end to the regulation of ‘indecent’ languages and images in broadcast programming.” He is a social libertine, perfectly comfortable to have full nudity or foul language at any time on the broadcast networks with millions of children in the audience. The overwhelming majority of parents object to this smut on the airwaves they own. Bollinger wants the networks to be free… of the public.
At the same time he wants to end regulation that protects families, especially children, Bollinger calls for the Fairness Doctrine to be restored. Any attempts to resurrect that failed and censorial doctrine should offend a press advocate like Bollinger. But his intent is clearly designed to inhibit speech with which he doesn’t agree. He adds that “we need a renewed national debate about how to help make broadcasting more of a medium for meaningful public discussion.” Apparently, talk radio and TV aren’t performing to the Bollinger standard. Radio especially is driven entirely by public demands, and public tastes. These, however, are not “meaningful” enough. So again: The public be damned.
His book goes further into governmental control of content, adding that “the FCC should now also require or encourage broadcasters to cover international and global issues.” It’s up to the FCC to tell ABC, CBS and NBC or even cable TV and radio networks what news they need to cover? In the old Soviet Union perhaps — but not here.
That’s where Bollinger truly goes off the tracks — government control. Along with content control, he wants government to have funding authority over the media. “First and foremost, we must develop a better system of public funding of the press,” he wrote. Then Bollinger chastises journalists for daring to oppose such a plan:
[T]here is a perception that the press is not publicly funded and, at least among print journalists, a sense that government funding is antithetical to the spirit of an independent press. This view needs to change…
He wants government “to create public funding grants to help finance the operations of foreign bureaus.” Those grants would be so extensive, they’d even include money for security.
To keep the tradition of separation between the business side and news alive, he proposes the possibility of a “system for peer review.” The same peers who have guided journalism down a path of economic disaster would get to decide on billions of dollars in new taxpayer funding. The public’s voice is no longer important. It is what this Star Chamber of “peer review” elites deem to be important. It is the antithesis of a free press.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?