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Newspaper Bailout? Don't Bet On It

America's troubled newspapers are getting a lot of attention these days. But the last place it should be seeking assistance from is Capitol Hill.

For the record, newspapers have not asked the government for a bailout, even in these the worst of times for the industry. That hasn't stopped Congress from talking about them.

The House Judiciary Committee called a meeting yesterday, at the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to examine what ails the industry and what might be done about it. Pelosi (D-Calif.), no doubt, is trying to score political brownie points by lending a hand to her hometown San Francisco Chronicle. But her colleagues instead used the meeting to bash the media business - from the left and right.

For those that showed up, that is. Most of the subcommittee members weren't even there. The ones that were took out whatever personal grievances they had against newspapers, starting with chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.):

[Conyers] countered with his contempt for Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch "telling us how important it is that the media remain free and viable." He recalled his own "hard feelings" about once being arrested while protesting outside one of the Detroit newspapers. "I'm going to ask their editors if I should meet with them tomorrow," he said bitterly. "Now that they're in bad shape, maybe I should help them?"

Conyers, who has collected his share of less-than-favorable headlines over the years, went on. "Newspapers remind me of automobile corporations," he said. "All of a sudden they need help, they need a lot of help and they need it fast."

Keep in mind that Conyers' beef with newspapers is deeply personal. His wife, Monica Conyers, is the president of the Detroit City Council and also frequently in the news for her thuggish behavior. Her brother just last week was arrested for drunk driving - and a probe of how she got him (a convicted felon) a city job is ongoing.

The show, er, meeting would've been comical if it wasn't so sad. At one point, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) asked if there were any "spies" in the audience.

Meanwhile, in the same building, former presidential candidate John Kerry is on a mission to save his own hometown paper - the Boston Globe. Kerry (D-Mass.) wants the Senate to call its own hearing to see what can be done to stop the newspaper hemorrhage.

In a letter to the employees of the Globe, whose parent New York Times Co. has threatened to shut it down if new labor deals aren't reached by May 1, Sen. Kerry wrote:

America's newspapers are struggling to survive, and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount. ... I am committed to your fight, committed to your industry and committed to ensuring that the vital public service newspapers provide does not disappear.

While there may be some truly noble sentiments among the elected representatives to "save" the business, newspapers are best advised to seek solutions of their own. After all, having a free press is all about not getting in bed with the government.