The government bailouts have started. Last week, New Hampshire became the first state to grant a line of credit to one of its newspapers, the Claremont Eagle-Times, beating states like Wisconsin, who have proposed similar plans to save print. And in September, President Barack Obama told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade that he would “be happy” to look at possible legislation that would help the struggling industry. Could New Hampshire provide a microcosmic study of government bailouts?
New Hampshire’s Executive Council has generously allotted 75 percent of a $250,000 line of credit to the lucky, no-longer-independent paper. The decision, not surprisingly, has ignited debate — how can a paper stay objective if it’s receiving direct funding from the government they are supposed to be watching over?
This isn’t the first time New Hampshire newspaper readers have tasted some journalistic hope. In August, the Eagle-Times folded, only to be replaced immediately by another paper, the Compass. And then the Sample News Group, a Pennsylvania family-owned publishing company submitted a bid for the paper, rehiring 20 of the 62 laid-off paper employees in the process.
Despite the state support, the publisher, George “Scoop” Sample, said he and the paper’s other owners plans to head to the bank again soon to try to get rid of any government involvement in his paper. And he stressed that, “no one, not the state, not anyone, gets special treatment in our newsroom.”
Too bad. The paper’s reporters were really hoping for back rubs and pedicures now that the Eagle-Times has embraced total emasculation.