Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How about a “public option” for newspapers?

Note: This is a rare, in fact unique example of an op-ed that I was asked to hold. Not spiked, just asked to hold and rework if I liked.

I was not offended. In fact, I was delighted when I thought about it.

Why? Because it scared the $#!+ out of my publisher and editor. What they said was, 1) "We sometimes make mistakes" is a damaging admission. Manifestly true, and we're not trying to hide it, but it's the kind of honesty that can hurt you if it ever comes up in court.

And 2) they thought some people would actually say, "Hey, what a great idea!"

But most of all, because given the premises of the health care argument, the logic herein is inescapable - and that's scary.



Wednesday night President Obama gave a speech to congress outlining his ideas for health care reform. Mostly it was a recap of what he's been pounding away at for a while, with a couple of minor surprises.

The president did give a nod to the lawsuit factor driving health care costs up. Baseless accusations of malpractice too-often force health care providers to practice “defensive medicine.” By ordering every diagnostic test under the sun they try to avoid winding up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

Since the president has so far studiously avoided the subject of tort reform this was praiseworthy, however offhand and half-hearted the mention.

Another surprise was he didn't quite insist on a “public option” in health insurance.

He didn't have to. Once a large enough fraction of the health care industry is pulled into the government sector, the rest will fall into place.

The president said, “But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance.”

How could anyone object to that? He's not proposing to nationalize the health insurance industry after all.

In fact, this sounds so reasonable I have an additional suggestion. How about a public option for newspapers? We could try it right here in our city.

We at the newspaper are aware that local government is sometimes not entirely happy with our coverage. We sometimes make mistakes. Some accuse us of being one-sided or unfair, or of only reporting bad news. We often give coverage to people they regard as troublemakers with nothing constructive to say.

And, we have a quasi-monopoly in our county as it's only daily newspaper. And let's not forget that advertising can be pretty expensive. Why should only big, rich businesses be able to afford full-page ads? What about small mom-and-pop businesses? Don't they deserve quality advertising?

So why not start a tax-subsidized newspaper to create some competition in the local newspaper business? And maybe a radio station as well. After all, if the people are paying for it, it would serve the people and not some private for-profit interest.

Using the president's logic, “But an additional step we can take to keep newspapers honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the media. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have access to news and advertising. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have newspaper subscriptions and advertising accounts.”

A tax-subsidized newspaper could afford more reporters and photographers, more color pages and more comics. A not-for-profit newspaper or radio station could offer free or greatly discounted advertising.

This wouldn't affect your present newspaper or radio station. Any business which preferred to could keep their own paid advertising in the privately owned media.

Of course, more people want their particular news interests published than any newspaper has room or any radio station time for. But you shouldn't worry about news and ad rationing. Public option media would have an impartial board of prominent citizens appointed by the government to review submissions and decide what is really important and newsworthy.

Isn't that the way it always works in government?

After all, it's not like we're proposing a government monopoly on newspapers.


  • At 9:31 PM, Blogger Ted Amadeus said…

    There are already two "public options" for those without health care insurance: Medicare and Medicaid...
    And they're both BUST!
    Kinda' lets you know
    A. More socialism isn't needed & is probably a lousy idea.
    B. It's good that government doesn't "cook the books" or anything.

    *pauses to laugh @$$ off*

    Oh, and that "tort reform" is called FULSOBs (the U & L stand for Union Labor, I'll leave the meaning of the rest to your verdant imagination) just like they have in all the other SocMed hellholes so the quack butchers are not held accountable for their incompetence.


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