Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Mr. Newspaper Goes to Washington, Comes Back Without a Bailout

mrsmithletters1The newspaper industry wants help from Washington. But it’s not going to get it anytime soon.

That’s the takeaway from a Congressional hearing yesterday, where some industry executives pleaded their case–specifically, that they need a change in antitrust law to survive.

But if they were thinking that the Obama administration would be receptive to that sort of thing, they got a swift rebuke. Associated Press:

“Newspapers, however rare and financially weak, can adapt and ultimately conquer the threat posed by the Internet, the Justice Department’s Carl Shapiro told a House panel.

‘We do not believe any new exemptions for newspapers are necessary,’ said Shapiro, an assistant attorney general for economics.”

And Congress itself wasn’t any more sympathetic. Yet.

I do wonder, however, how this will change over time. Even in a best-case scenario, we’re going to see lots of newspapers shuttering over the next few years. Professional bomb-thrower Michael Wolff’s prediction that 80 percent of papers will fold within 18 months is too high, but I’ve talked to much more sober folks who think we could still lose a third of our daily papers within a few years.

Those papers are increasingly irrelevant to many of their readers, but they retain an awful lot of political clout. So the issue may be more resonant in 12 months once we’ve seen more papers actually shutter. That still won’t get the papers a Wall Street-sized bailout, but a change in antitrust law won’t seem unthinkable then.

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