State Interference in News Biz Is Ill-Advised [OPINION]
Elected state officials should worry about paving roads and making sure the trains run on time, and not on fixing the business of news reporting.
The Legislature's Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses is considering appointing a special commission to study local journalism in Massachusetts. This is a frightening thought.
I have witnessed a lot of changes in the news biz during my more than four decades in the industry. Some of those changes have been positive. Some not so much. The last thing the industry needs is the Massachusetts Legislature to get involved. After all, government deregulation of the media led to a lot of the problems we face today.
Supporters of this commission suggest that changes in the industry have resulted in less local news coverage. Newspapers are failing or are being swallowed up and gutted by major corporations. Small radio stations all over the country have gone dark while the big ones have been gobbled up by national companies. Certainly, these traditional forms of media face challenges that they will or will not address. That's life in the free market economy.
What lawmakers fail to understand is that the flow of information continues with or without newspapers. Social media and the internet have proven to be a much more reliable and powerful way of disseminating information at a more rapid pace than traditional print formats. The automobile was faster than the horse and that's why you don't see many horses parked in driveways today.
The State House News Agency says the commission would "study communities that are currently underserved by local news, the impact of social media, the quality of news coverage in cities and towns, the ratio of news outlets to residents, the history of local news, business models for print and digital outlets, public policy ideas to help sustain outlets, and strategies to improve access to local news." The quality of news coverage? Really? By whose standards?
Here is the real story: some in government want to be able to control the message. They are more likely able to influence traditional forms of media in ways that they cannot do with the internet or social media. This worries them because they cannot control the flow of information. There have been unsuccessful movements nationally to silence conservatives. Some are still trying to censure conservatives on social media but so far have not been successful.
Massachusetts is controlled by social Democrats who are attempting to control the media and therefore the message. To allow them to do so is dangerous and must be resisted at all costs.
Many traditional media outlets continue to thrive in the age of social media. Townsquare Media, parent company to WBSM and Fun 107, has embraced the social media phenomenon and has actively incorporated it into its overall plan for communicating with the local market. In doing so, it has made our commitment to and presence in the community even stronger.
Government interference in the local media is wrong and can serve no positive purpose. Local media that is unwilling or unable to embrace the social media and internet age will go the way of the horse. Those who do will survive and thrive. Picking winners and losers in the media is not the role of the government.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.