By Seth Richardson
The Los Angeles Times reports today that the Los Angeles Police Protective League is demanding that the owners of the San Diego Union-Tribune fire editorial writers who are critical of public employee labor unions. The newspaper was recently purchased by Platinum Equity, which is heavily invested in public employee pension funds in California. The Los Angeles police and firefighters pension fund has more than $30 million invested with Platinum Equity.
Police union President Paul M. Weber claims that the investment with Platinum makes the union “part owner in the flagging Union-Tribune.” Weber wrote a letter to Platinum CEO Tom Gores on March 26 saying, “Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replace.” (sic)
If ever there was a cautionary tale for avoiding government bailouts of newspapers, this is it. Thomas Jefferson knew this.
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.”
Freedom of the press relies for its very existence and credibility upon the ability of the press to resist pressure from special interests, political candidates, public officials and the subjects of editorial criticism. Without the independence that is essential to a truly free press, news organizations rapidly become little more than shills for their benefactors.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”
The insidiousness of this corruption of the free press is easily seen in the liberal bias of most newsrooms, be they newspapers or television stations. CNBC and NBC’s ownership by General Electric has resulted in the destruction not only of the network’s ratings, but of its reputation and credibility. Under the direction of Jeffery Immelt and Jeff Zucker, the networks have taken a hard left and have exited the domain of the free press and become slaves to the Obama administration and the Progressive movement. The New York Times has fallen into the same trap, and is now nothing but a shill for far-left causes. Let the government take them over and the truth will vanish entirely.
Now Congress is involved. Democrat Benjamin Cardin has introduced a bill to “help” newspaper companies restructure as nonprofits with lots of tax breaks. “We are losing our newspaper industry,” Cardin said. “The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.”
Yes, it is, but turning the free press into a “public press” by making it beholden and answerable to the government by virtue of public benefits and/or funding will enslave the press to Liberal Democrats and Socialists, who will not hesitate for a moment to pressure press agencies to report only that which is favorable to the agenda of whomever grants the boons or provides the funds. This is far worse than no press at all, for when there is an absence of a free press, that vacuum is inevitably filled as the community demands information. But where the press is subservient to and controlled by the government, the people cannot find the truth, and a free press cannot compete when government largesse favors the government mouthpiece.
Nowhere is this socialistic control of the free press more obvious than in the words of the boss of the Los Angeles police union. He wants nothing more than to make the actions of Los Angeles police officers immune from public criticism by the only ones who can criticize with impunity because they are free, independent and protected by the U.S. Constitution against censorship by the government.
It would be better for newspapers to die a dignified death and become extinct than that they become organs of the state, because the danger to the public posed by government control of the sources of information and news are incalculable.
“This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution.” –Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823.
But do we, the People, have the will to preserve the Fourth Estate? Jefferson was skeptical even in his own time, and said, “Our people, merely for want of intelligence which they may rely on, are become lethargic and insensible of the state they are in.”
It’s far more important that newspapers and other news organization, including the emerging on-line citizen-lead journalism, remain true to the principles of a Free Press, because without it, tyranny will inevitably be facilitated and protected. It is our duty to preserve the freedom of the press, and to resist, and revile attempts to manipulate it, such as that attempted by Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber.
“To preserve the freedom of the human mind… and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.” Thomas Jefferson to William Green Munford, 1799.
© 2009 Altnews