Last year we were stunned after reading about a proposal from an old school journalist that newspapers should get government subsidies
. The idea was so preposterous, we had figured it wouldn't get very far, but apparently others in the industry are still thinking the same way. Frank Blethen, president of The Seattle Times Company, is now suggesting that newspapers run by companies are not a good idea and the government should offer tax credits to newspapers
. On top of that he states (with a straight face, we believe): "The question should really be not what is happening to the poor companies, it should be what public policy do we need - including subsidies - to ensure we have a variety of voices or a variety of models."
What's amazing is how that single sentence shows not just what he's asking for, but why
he thinks he needs government support: because he's completely blind to what's happening in the real media world around him. When you can't see what's happening in your very own market, perhaps it's no surprise that you'd ask the government to bail you out. However, his statements are wrong in so many ways. First, there's no shortage of "voices" out there today. In fact, there are more voices than at any time in history -- and it's in spite of the newspapers, not because of them. Newspapers are still focused on believing they're the voice, rather than enabling
that "variety of voices." The very reason newspapers are in trouble these days is because others
were able to enable the voices, while newspapers held steadfastly to a model that just doesn't work
And, no, government support won't help. Putting people in charge who recognize how
people consume news these days is all that's needed. All Blethen has done with his statement is shown that he doesn't understand his own market, is unwilling to change and wants to blame everyone else for his own failings -- and, because of that, wants taxpayers to bail him out for his own mistakes. No wonder newspapers like his are having trouble. Meanwhile, plenty of news venues
. But to do so, you have to stop thinking of yourself as a newspaper of ten, or even five, years ago. Unfortunately for the Seattle Times, it doesn't appear its leadership is able to do that.