Freedom without an independent press is a farce

When the rich and powerful talk about how to counterbalance the rich and powerful, I listen, especially when it is under the tantalizing headline "Journalism and Freedom" and on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal under the byline of Rupert Murdoch.

The Aussie-born media tycoon may have his American history a little muddled — in fact post-colonial government did in fact subsidize some newspapers with printing and postal contracts — but his view of modern economics and vision of technology and business trends appear spot on to me.

As the rich and powerful Murdoch explains it: "From the beginning, newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers’ interests and giving them the news that’s important to them. That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful."

The 78-year-old Murdoch continues his drumbeat for paid content, despite all the Googlephiles who chant information wants to be free, information wants to be free, pretending it is a fundamental law of physics. He takes the time to bitch slap the aggregators and bloggers for stealing his stuff, as I am doing now.

He also has a stern warning and stinging rebuke for a lot of us in the newspaper business, saying, "I can’t tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes — and a rapidly declining circulation. This tells me the editors are producing news for themselves — instead of news that is relevant to their customers. A news organization’s most important asset is the trust it has with its readers, a bond that reflects the readers’ confidence that editors are looking out for their needs and interests."

Ouch! Want to see the wall of my office?

This, believe it or not, dovetails right into his theme about journalism and freedom when he criticizes over regulation by government and chastises those calling for government assistance for the news media. Independent a reliable watchdog journalism does not come from a lapdog.

That is why the news media must remain free of government ties, he says, and must be competitive and profitable.


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