Bernie Sanders is coming for your newspaper
In a little noted op-ed published in Columbia Journalism Review, socialist Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders outlined his "plan" for journalism, headlined: "Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders on his plan for journalism."
Plan? Just that word "plan" ought to give any self-respecting journalist the creeps.
After all, journalists operate under the First Amendment, an inalienable protection and right, in the same way gun-owners derive their right to bear arms through the Second Amendment. The press doesn't operate under five-year plans from all-knowing central planners, which is exactly what Sanders's logic has more than a whiff of. He begins piously with a banal Walter Cronkite reference, trying to touch the right buttons to soften his audience up:
WALTER CRONKITE ONCE SAID that "journalism is what we need to make democracy work." He was absolutely right, which is why today's assault on journalism by Wall Street, billionaire businessmen, Silicon Valley, and Donald Trump presents a crisis — and why we must take concrete action.
Then he gets into something to send some shivers:
Real journalism is different from the gossip, punditry, and clickbait that dominates today's news. Real journalism, in the words of Joseph Pulitzer, is the painstaking reporting that will "fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, [and] always fight demagogues."
Hear that? Bernie wants to define for journalists and their viewers, listeners, and readers what "real" journalism is, picking and choosing the right sort of material for all of us, seeking to reward what he likes and punish what he doesn't like. In so doing, he's choosing what's better for us, because only Bernie knows best. That tabloid stuff is bad for your health, see, so no Katy Perry stories for you. It's central planning in spades. Mao; the Sandinistas; Kim Jong-il; and Sanders's early role models, the Soviets, certainly would understand.
It then gets worse.
Sanders goes into a long diatribe about media ownership and mergers and acquisitions matters, and anti-trust matters, which, yes, might be in need of some legal reform. He also speaks of big tech scarfing up the profits from journalism quite questionably, given that they hold monopolies. It's long, and I won't get into it except to say I think I agree with a lot of it.
But then he gets back to the micromanaging and central planning, expressing once again how he'd like to control journalism, picking its winners and losers, raising even more questions about his whole bid to "help" journalism:
We must also explore new ways to empower media organizations to collectively bargain with these tech monopolies, and we should consider taxing targeted ads and using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media. That will be part of an overall effort to substantially increase funding for programs that support public media's news-gathering operations at the local level — in much the same way many other countries already fund independent public media.
Non-profit civic-minded media? We can just guess what such organs are going to look like under Bernie's idea of them.
What we have here is Bernie using big tech as a money bonanza, taking its profits derived from the reporting of newspapers and other media (which they shouldn't be doing), and then clapped back into Bernie's hands for redistribution to media organs of his liking. Instead of doing something to support the beleaguered existing presses, and allowing them to keep more of their own earnings, Bernie wants to take those monies and hand them instead to a third party, these "nonprofits" that Bernie alone will approve of.
This sounds like a media takeover, with favored and disfavored players to be selected by central planners. Sanders isn't interested in helping the press. He's interested in gutting the First Amendment and handing it over to central planners.
Any self-respecting journalists should get away from this idea like a bad smell.
Image credit: Photo illustration by Monica Showalter with public domain sources and image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0.