Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bloggers Run the World - Thanks for the Confirmation

By Static Chaos, only after disaster can we be resurrected

An article by The Hill dated 9/20/09 reported that President Obama said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks, if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses. In the same context, President Obama also told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade that:

"...I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding..."

In addition, the President also made the following comment:

“What I hope is that people start understanding if you're getting your newspaper over the Internet, that's not free and there's got to be a way to find a business model that supports that.”

Since President Obama confirmed that bloggers do run the world, I’d like to dedicate this blog to respond to his comments.

Liberal markets, or capitalism, has been dominant in the Western world since the end of feudalism. In a liberal market, there is no central planning authority but prices are determined by the demand-supply scale. The media space is very much like any market segment where supply and demand is determined by the competitiveness of each market participant.

News organizations have failed miserably in the competiveness department. Across the country, newspapers are struggling to maintain readership and advertising revenue that has been lost to the Internet. Thousands of journalists have been laid off, and over the last year several newspapers have closed.

In addition to outdated business models, another reason people turn to blogs for news is that bloggers tend to be independent thinkers; and most do not charge a fee with the exception of proprietary materials. On the other hand, the news media tends to be biased towards liberal and socialistic ideals, which is one constituent group of Obama, and the Democratic Party. In addition, many news organizations are starting to charge a fee for internet content. It shouldn’t be a surprise which one the public flocks to in this economy.

Obama’s blanket statement implying “blogs are written without serious fact-checking, and attempts to put stories in context” is highly misleading and inflammatory. To be fair, one has to admit that there may be some bloggers posting irresponsible opinions; however, the mainstream media also has their share of bad apples if not more...remember Dan Rather & CBS?

The right to freedom of speech is recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It essentially means:

“Liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance, and especially without fear of punishment.”

Even though the United States legal systems have not treated freedom of speech as absolute, the liberal tradition has generally defended freedom of speech because a free interchange of ideas is considered as an essential ingredient of democracy, innovation and progress.

As much as the West, with the U.S. being the most vocal, has been condemning China for its media censorship, one could not help but sense a whiff of media control and censorship in the President’s remark.

As a nation, we do not need another bailout of incompetent businesses. Bailouts and restructuring into non-profits, as suggested by Obama, only guarantees the continuation of a proven failed business model. This strategy would only undermine the already tenuous nature of objective journalistic integrity and move the U.S. one step closer towards the much despised controlled market approach.

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