In response to Hearst Corporation's threats to sell the San Francisco Chronicle, House Speaker and San Francisco representative Nancy Pelosi urged the U.S. Justice Department to consider changing media ownership and anti-trust rules to save the newspaper. She has also arranged a hearing for the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy on the survival of newspapers.
Since Hearst announced its intention in February to sell the Chronicle unless it could make cost reductions, the company has been negotiating cutbacks with unions. The California Media Workers Guild, the Chronicle's largest union, has already made concessions, including laying off 150 employees, and Hearst continues negotiations with labor union the Teamsters. Hearst has not yet reached a decision to sell, but under present antitrust definitions, it will be difficult for Hearst to sell the paper to its prospective buyer MediaNews, which owns almost every daily newspaper in the Bay Area.
Many journalists criticize Pelosi's proposal, believing that the loss of the Chronicle, Northern California's largest newspaper, as an independent publication would be detrimental to the community. In response to Pelosi's proposal Neil Henry, Dean of the university's Graduate School of Journalism, said, "I don't think it's an answer particularly in an age where anybody can be a publisher, anybody in the world can be a provider of content. I don't think it makes sense to look at consolidation, an orthodox of information, as the answer."
Pelosi's letter also generated opponents who believe the government should not get involved in newspapers but, rather, should let them fail if that is to be their fate. One blogger writes, "It's bad for competition, bad for freedom of speech, and makes no economic sense. Newspapers are dying in print form, for good reason. Haven't these people heard of the Internet?"
In general, the U.S. has opposed a government newspaper bailout. The Wall Street Journal said in response to the idea that "independent journalism is valuable, but only if it is truly independent." If Pelosi's resolution succeeds, it will be a large step towards government intervention in the media, and once it has begun, how far will this intervention have to stretch to save dying newspapers? Dissenters raise two major questions: Should government intervene to save a dying industry in the technological age? Is a newspaper like the Chronicle even worth saving if it loses its independence?