Recent news reports of Washington's latest expansion initiative-to furnish bailout money to in-the-red newspapers, and with that money as enticement, to require acceptance of government oversight via "improved accountability" in reporting-came to my attention just as I was reading another just-announced Washington expansion initiative: to extend the National Transportation Safety Board's reach over all municipal transit systems.
Like most of the lamestream media, most public transit is markedly deficit-prone and for the same reason: potential customers find the information product or transportation service resistible even though inexpensive.
Watching the Obama administration doing its thing "the Chicago Way" for the last 307 days (out of a probable total of 1,461) suggested that I should describe the consiglieri of Chicago-trained pol Rahm Emanuel going to the management of the rapidly bankrupting New York Times with "a (monetary) offer they can't refuse".
Ah, the ever reliable Times-
Recall Times reporter Walter Duranty who wrote repeatedly in the early '30s from Soviet Russia that the starvation of Ukrainian millions wasn't happening (and got a Pulitzer Prize for his pro-Communist dispatches). Then, in the early '60s the Times chose not to report on thousands of dead Chicagoans rising temporarily from their graves to vote for their candidate JFK, and most recently the Times' adopted CBS-TV/Dan Rather style of fake reporting on the Bush and (even more so) Palin candidacies.
Presently, most of the Fourth Estate is like the Times: deep in red ink.
Continuing a long-term trend, here are last year's circulation numbers: Washington Post, -2.5 percent; New York Times, -3.5 percent; USA Today, -4.1 percent; L.A. Times, -5.5 percent; Chicago Tribune, -7.3 percent; and Boston Globe, -9.8 percent. Of major U.S. print media, only the Wall Street Journal posted a circulation gain, up 2.4 percent.
All papers except the Journal would likely take the money (as well as the government-accountability/content tether) and run, just as they have been running, as faithful practitioners of left-ideology-favoring reportage.
In Vermont, that group would include the Burlington Free Press and the Rutland Herald, but remarkably not the St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record.
Members of the give-us-money group would do a pro-forma protest about Fourth Estate independence, I'd guess, then demurely agree to be seduced if the price is right. It's not as if they've had much independence to surrender; the Herald is already heavily dependent on the Times for its op-ed page content.
With that as background, my thoughts turned to an early 19th-century Englishwoman named Mary Howitt. She who was the author of "The Spider and the Fly" in 1829.
Contrary to what we were taught in grade school back in America's Dark Ages, the theme of enticement-into-doom using exemplary insects practicing all-too-human behaviors wasn't one of Aesop's fables; it's sufficiently well-known, even amongst recent high school graduates, that I need not recite the poem's seven stanzas here.
However, there's a basic difference between the fly (which presumably doesn't like being enticed, entrapped, and consumed) and such once-iconic leaders of the print media as the now broke Philadelphia Inquirer
I am sure the Inquirer folks would be delighted to achieve the nearest condition to immortality-becoming a quasi-governmental agency like a regulated public utility-and secure a permanent paid place on the taxpayer payroll for doing what it already does quite effectively: using both op-ed opinion and selectively managed news content to advocate for progressively (pun intended) greater governmental involvement in ever more aspects of the American culture.
The basic pattern has long been established: designated public utilities like CVPS and GMP are former independent free-market businesses that are now heavily regulated by government. This fact sets not only their areas of monopoly service but also what level and quality of services they provide. In return, these entities are guaranteed a ratepayer schedule which will insure them a return on equity in the 10 percent range.
Heck, to make that kind of money, most contemporary newspapers would even report-if so ordered-as did the New York Times during the Depression, that (to quote Lincoln Steffens' evaluation of the Soviet Union) "I have seen the future and it works".
Retired vermont architect Martin Harris gleefully observes Vermont from a tax haven in Tennessee.