The Sixty Minutes report tonight regarding the loss of local newspapers in order to keep America as a democracy was a story left in the wings for quite some time. Kudos for the coverage and what was brought to the attention of those who tuned in to the Sixty Minutes program.
The report comes on the heals of several other reports about this topic. The Economist article was titled, “The Culture Vultures.” The hedge fund leader who has been purchasing newspapers such as The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun was aptly described, along with other such hedge fund people as “vultures.” The man purchases the newspapers and lays off most of the workforce, including a newspaper featured in the story, The Pottstown (PA) Mercury. Being married to a person who faced a layoff, along with many wonderful reporters and columnists at a Florida newspaper, in 2008, I am somewhat aware of the loss of many of the fine local news people who were laid off in that situation. It is rather disgusting to learn that the high and mighty one from Alden “profits” of newspapers has lined his pockets while tearing profits from some very good people of local journalism and purchased a huge mansion in Miami. I say this not to complain, as if me and my spouse never got that possibility. No. It is to say that there are thousands of Americans besides me who have been dumped, so as to have one person line his pockets. The gap between haves and have nots is widening and it has an impact on many thousands and millions of Americans. Some suffer more than I have and that does not make me feel like I am any better. In fact, many of us have no interest in such a mansion, as we try to make it in this world with just a regular American home, as our parents were able to have.
While the Sixty Minutes report pointed out how America has lost its coverage of local newspapers which had reporters who had, at one time, uncovered local level corruption, with a quality journalism which has been nixed by fat pigs with a love of money. Love of money, not money or profits, is the root of evil.
There are other examples of the “vultures” and they could be uncovered. Newspapers which have faced “mob-like” destruction of publishers who have tried to uncover corruption at the local level. Funny, but the excuse might be that a publishing person died by “falling off a bike,” while the real facts for a possible homicide are part of a coverup. Or a the exposure of a local restaurant owner who got reviewed by a local writer in a newspaper and it was discovered that the owner was substituting one seafood with another one, due to a shortage, selling it like a snake oil salesman of the 19th Century did to fake out customers. Local newspapers can uncover such issues at the local level. Thanks for the examples provided in the Sixty Minutes report.
Additional information could be provided and the story taken into a more in-depth review of this situation. As always, the public is made to believe it’s the financial downfall and the fault lies in the competition from social media. There may be some truth to this. But I also want to offer that the roots of the lower profits and “decline” of newspapers was a deliberate sabotage to do so which began with the George H.W. Bush administration ridding this nation of the FCC Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine was put in place by a BIPARTISAN effort following World War II so as to protect our democracy from the type of propaganda which had brought Hitler to power in Germany. The end of the Fairness Doctrine saw the development of hate radio led by Rush Limbaugh and eventually led us to the crap we see going unmoderated on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. What was not mentioned was how newspapers were a form of moderation which does not censor, but which corrects errors in facts and stops emotional outbursts of hatred and libel which have become a much more predominant and common thing happening in America. The “vultures” are cleaning up from the dead meat road kill which has resulted from the deliberate strategies to sabotage newspapers.
The newscaster doing the interview in this report, sad to say, demonstrated the lack of knowledge about what capitalism is truly about, as the saboteurs, like the “robber barons” (“fat cats”) of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century (Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Carnegie), amass money for the purpose of lining their own pockets. These “barons” have created an environment since the 1970s in which such people have loaded their own pocketbooks and created exponentially bloated purse for one self. In the meantime, the rest of us have watched as our pocketbooks have not done as well. Rather than using the words, “robber barons” or “fat cats,” as had been done by the press during the time of the robber barons, This newscaster commented, as do so many others take as “common knowledge” regarding capitalism, by asking the interviewee describing the wrongful tasks of the Alden man who was laying off and destroying capitalist competition (as the 19th Century “robber barons” did), “is that not what capitalism is?” The response should have been, “no, that is not what capitalism is about.”
A History Channel review of the history of the “robber barons” (Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Carnegie) never addressed them as “robber barons,” but identified that era and Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Carnegie as the “golden capitalists.” Wrong. Never did the History Channel documentary identify those men as “robber barons,” which is what they were. Even John D. Rockefeller’s parents wanted nothing to do with what their son was doing.
Too many Americans are too wrapped up with the casting of aspersions which falsify what Adam Smith intended with the capitalism he proposed in the 18th Century to counter the “barons” of royalty of his day. People like one of our Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin, had spent time in Scotland with Adam Smith. Smith was a contemporary of those who set forth this democracy in the form of a revolution against monarchies and “barons” who proclaimed that their money gave them a divine right to rule. Adam Smith wanted to overturn the “supply-side economics” of royalty and “barons” which existed in his day because such royalty controlled in a dictatorial way, the supply side and with no concern for the demand side. Smith, with his moral sensitivity, created an economic plan to provide capitalist competition in order to keep prices down and reaching out to consider the balance of supply AND demand. Only capitalist competition can accomplish the goal for working with investments over the long term.
With deregulation, supply side economics, and the gradual elimination of long-term investments (particularly in mortgages), in favor of “supply siders” like potential “slum lords” with their flipping of homes, we have moved to short-term, “Me – I want it NOW” – attitudes. This change has moved America into a dangerous position. One result has been the lack of strong local newspapers, in order to keep democracy, true capitalism, and a concern for humanity – “we the people.”
Keep in mind that this “short-term” attitude has also helped destroy the ideas of long-term investments in savings accounts, as Neil Bush helped to reduce the effectiveness of the Federal Savings & Loan system in this nation, ultimately leading to the destruction of the FS&Ls.
We have ended up with supply-side control by big banks. Such big banks mesmerize the demand side by providing 5% discounts on gasoline if their credit card is used. Too good to be true. Such banks then collect a huge interest charge when this discount is used. In contrast, there was a day in this nation when there was consideration of both supply and demand. We observed this, as children of the 1960s, to put our quarters in a bank machine (before ATMs) in an elementary school classroom. Our savings book would be marked with a deposit. Today, the demand side is being ripped off by snake-oil bankers who think they are doing a wonderful thing with a 5% discount. Sadly, we receive only “$.01 each month in a savings account. Turns out, it would have been better to just pay the regular price of the gasoline, even as it is higher now, than to pay all that money in interest charges to snake-oil supply-side dictatorial bankers.
Now, as presented this evening by Sixty Minutes, we have learned there is a competitor in the establishment of The Baltimore Banner, in order to compete with Alden fat pigs who own The Baltimore Sun. However, The Baltimore Banner is a digital newspaper. This is supposed to provide competition and we should feel good about it? Yes, feel good about capitalist competition. Feelings are just about as good as the 5% discount by banks, overridden by exorbitant interest charges. We have already seen the hidden costs of digital newspapers as we try to deal with large costs of technology, visual impairment making it difficult to read digital copy, and, unsuspected cyber attacks, and the lack of computer service people because the local ones are all aiming at commercial customers only. Residential customers pay for service work by the big boxes instead. Only those who keep up on technology and the changes or the wealthy can afford the digital newspapers. Hidden costs which no one considers. The Sunday New York Times, in print copy, may cost $6.00. The amount we pay for technology in America far exceeds what the print copies cost. People who are intelligent enough to mange the production of print copies of newspapers never even take into account that more advertising can be sold if circulation (number of people figures) were higher. That can be accomplished by reducing the cost of each issue. Judging by the Alden owner of The Baltimore Sun and others, he is not suffering from print copies, as he purchased a huge mansion in Miami which most of us will likely never be able to purchase. We are overcharged by banks, streaming television (rather than ability to receive FREE LOCAL BROADCASTS) and technological big boxes. Big boxes which are more concerned about selling products than about servicing the technology and service to overturn cyber attacks. This is not just money, but the unnecessary stress it puts on our lives, as we are attacked by those who change settings on our phones and equipment.
Let us bring back local newspapers and do so with more than just digital copies. The ones pushing for digital copies don’t work to bring us free local broadcast media and free broadband access. Print copies of newspapers could also be free and thus advertisers could reach more people.