A great morality play is running in southern California that gives a pretty clear view into where government funding of newspapers will lead. Unfortunately, the article I have (via Glen Reynolds) is not written very clearly. Here are the key facts:
- New ownership buys San Diego Union-Tribune, apparently the city's largest newspaper
- The new ownership group is funded in part by investments from public pension funds
- Public officials argue that since the paper is owned in part with some of their money, the newspaper should no longer be allowed to criticize public officials
Here is their demand:
As [police union] League President Paul M. Weber views it, that makes the League part owner in the flagging Tribune and League officials are none to happy with the paper's consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits.
"Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced," Weber wrote in a March 26 letter to Platinum CEO Tom Gores.
Seems pretty plain to me. And I see no reason why government officials, who always long to avoid criticism, wouldn't use investments of public funds to exercise the same leverage. By the way, I loved this line:
"It's just these people on the opinion side. There is not even an attempt to be even-handed. They're one step away from saying, "˜these public employees are parasites,' " Weber said.
OK, if they won't say it, I will: "Those public employees are parasites."