Lots of time is spent in the outer realms of the Hypothetical Future of Journalism discussion world wondering about the plausibility and impact of government bailouts for newspapers. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, for instance, introduced a bill to offer tax incentives for news outlets to restructure as non-profit entities. Other ideas discussed include straight auto-industry style cash-infusion, short-term loans, or even the idea of enshrining the newspaper industry as a public trust in the spirit of the National Endowment for the Arts or public libraries. The arguments go: newspapers are too big to fail in the sense of their importance; the medium itself has lapsed into obsolescence but the in-depth reporting that has remained the domain of newspapers staffs after all these years is too crucial to a vibrant democracy to let slip away. No objective news, no intelligent discourse; Know news, know discourse, etc.
As President Obama told the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade in an interview last year, according to The Hill:
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.”
All that is well and good in the hypothetical hinterlands, but would it really work in a country where the most popular TV news source is founded on the principle of the unreliability of the ideologically tainted dictatorship of the old media (I’ll let you think about the irony of that whole premise on your own for a minute).
Luckily, a likely artist’s rendering of a scenario has been laid out for us, in a little periodical known as Spider-man. In Spider-man universe, the publisher of The DB (the tabloid successor of J. Jonah Jameson’s Daily Bugle) becomes the first recipient of a government bailout. And the angry masses don’t care for it at all.
So, in summary, here’s what happens (Note: all images belong to Marvel Comics The Amazing Spider-Man, issue 612, January 2010): during the struggling economy present even in fictional Marvel Universe New York City, news of the bailout is not met with enthusiasm.
J. Jonah Jameson (now mayor) revels in the public acrimony hurled at the paper’s new publisher, Dexter Bennett, while crowds gather in the street to protest what they consider corporate greed.