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Newspaper profitability -
Is it critical to our democracy

Today, as you read this column in your favorite newspaper, I hope that you can appreciate the irony of where I am choosing to voice my opposition to President Obama's expressed "happiness" to look at proposals to provide federal funding to help "rescue" the struggling print segment of the Fourth Estate.

Just what we need -- more of our tax dollars going to pick and choose segments of the public sector that the administration deems worthy of assistance.

I do agree with President Obama when he states that good journalism is "critical to the health of our democracy." While I think we can all agree that the media find maintaining neutrality and hiding biases difficult in many circumstances, one cannot discount their role in keeping this nation's representatives in check and, sometimes, even holding them accountable for their actions.

The essential nature of a free press was so recognized by our Founding Fathers that it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

But these views on the importance of journalism in a free society does not mean I am willing to submit, or subscribe to, the theory that we can abandon the principles of a free market in order to pick and choose select private industries deemed worthy of receiving federal dollars to bolster their chances of surviving the ever-changing marketplace.

Today, many of our nation's longest-standing print outlets are struggling to garner advertisers and subscribers. The impact of the challenging economy on advertising budgets and the ease and freshness of online news sources have put traditional newspapers in a challenging position.

However, rather than arrogantly assuming government dollars may be the key to their continued viability, we should step back and take note of the countless periodicals that are withstanding these unfriendly challenges to their profitability by exploring new, creative ways to remain viable during times of economic hardship and increasing competition from the online community.

We are not facing the end of the press, but a necessary and perhaps even desirable evolution in the particular form and style of our media sources. Journalism is diversifying, not dying. This is the free market at work.

But this administration and this Congress seem to think that government is the solution -- the only answer. The answer to what? To help struggling financial institutions as well as the auto and newspaper industries gain an advantage? But what industry, what sector is next? Perhaps they should next look at helping revive the now-defunct Arena Football League?

As we look out over our nation as it attempts to climb out from the devastating economic morass of the last 18 months, we can still see so many Americans out of work and countless small businesses struggling to make ends meet. How can President Obama talk about continued bailouts -- especially one directed toward the media -- when we fail to address the concerns of the small businesses that make up a majority of the jobs in our country? How about targeted tax cuts/rebates for these small businesses instead?

Sadly, it appears to be political. The president seems more concerned about the influence of blogs and other online informational resources on the political process than he does about helping the working families of our nation by being judicious and fair with their tax dollars.

He claims that many of the online news options are simply carefree when it comes to the facts. Or, perhaps, he does not appreciate the online use of facts that is helping to shape our health-care debate?

But, regardless of his reasoning or intentions, one thing is clear: the use of our tax dollars to bail out the newspaper industry is just one new example of a federal government that is intent on expanding its own power and reach -- all the while trampling on America's traditional notion of capitalism and free markets. Now, that is something worth reporting.

Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.