Good Question!

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 31, 2009

In the event that the Obama Administration moves to bail out newspapers–as many have sought for it to do either through direct aid or through relaxing antitrust restrictions so that newspapers can merge and/or consolidate–will the Administration demand that heads of newspaper companies get fired?

It should, shouldn’t it? The rules that apparently apply to a Wagoner should also apply to a Sulzberger, shouldn’t they?

Of course, just as I am against the idea that the President ought to have the power to fire a Wagoner, I am also against the idea that the President ought to have the power to fire a Sulzberger. I have to confess that part of me would not mind seeing the titans of newspapers that pretend to be unbiased, even as they extol all that is near and dear to the hearts of those on the port side of politics, quake in their boots at the thought that they too could be removed by the President of the United States in any newspaper restructuring.

But my fantasies are not important here. Consistency is. If the newspapers get some kind of special bailout without the White House mandating a change in their leadership in the way it mandated a change in the leadership of GM, then the Obama Administration’s actions will be seen as a set of rules that are ad hoc, formless, and utterly without any semblance of intellectual coherence. And naturally, given the degree to which many in the media are in the tank for Barack Obama, one will be given to wonder whether the President may reward media allies for their docility by allowing them to remain in their jobs even as their organizations may be bailed out in the future.

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