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The Washington Post's dependence on the government it covers
April 12, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration -- the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable. "By the end of 2010, more than 90 percent of revenue at Kaplan’s biggest division and nearly a third of The Post Co.’s revenue overall came from the U.S. government." The Post Co.'s reliance on the Federal Government extends beyond the source of its revenue; because the industry is so heavily regulated, any animosity from the Government could single-handedly doom the Post Co.'s business... -- Glenn Greenwald examines WaPo's entanglement with for-profit education
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously
posted by briank at 10:43 AM on April 12, 2011


The business of all mainstream newspapers and television networks is to propagate whatever phony narrative the people who finance them (whether it be advertisers or corporate parents) want to tell. This is not something unique to the Washington Post.
posted by empath at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


As the article itself points out, corporate ownership of news entities is far from new. The fact that Kaplan has a direct need to play nice with the government officials--as opposed to indirectly lobbying them--doesn't really change much.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:58 AM on April 12, 2011


How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic "watchdog" over that same Government?

In the exactly the same way that MSNBC and NBC were expected to be watchdogs for GE when they were owned by it, and in the way that they are expected to report stories against Comcast's interests, now that they are owned by it. In the same way that CNN is meant to report against Time Warner's- its parent company- interests. In exactly the same way that all of these media outlets, owned by corporations and run by millionaires from the top 1%, are expected to provide honest, well researched and candid information about the pros and cons of corporate tax cuts, environmental regulations, minimum wages, and labour unions.

On preview: what empath said.
posted by the thing about it at 10:59 AM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hear that NPR and PBS also have some dependency on the federal government...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's in the lead of the linked salon story, but if you tag washpo, in an article about an article in washpo, let's link to the washpo story itself.

(It was a great two-pager on the inside, but lacked some criticalness..)
posted by k5.user at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2011


This is why media consolidation is a bad idea and by "bad idea" I mean "exactly what rich, powerful people love".
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that... perfect world... in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:04 AM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Most of the comments so far don't give any indication that they've read the WaPo piece that Greenwald alludes to (here it is again), and treat Greenwald's piece as though it's primarily about WaPo's entanglement with the government -- which it isn't, as the lede demonstrates:
The Washington Post this morning published a lengthy article detailing the fortune -- and now the trouble -- generated for its parent company, The Washington Post Co., as a result of its acquisition of Kaplan Higher Ed.
So the big question here becomes, is the WaPo article a puff piece -- does it pull its punches? If so, we've got a story, though as noted it's roughly the same story you'd have if you were exposing the bias in SF Chronicle reviews of Marion Davies films.
posted by lodurr at 11:06 AM on April 12, 2011


having complained, I will allow as that was probably Ned Beatty's finest cinematic moment.
posted by lodurr at 11:08 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's bad enough that these companies are soaking the poor under the guise of higher education, worse yet that they're doing it on a Federal dime— but it's downright criminal that the profits made doing all that can then be used to prop up a failed waste of trees like The Washington Post.
posted by carsonb at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2011


though as noted it's roughly the same story you'd have if you were exposing the bias in SF Chronicle reviews of Marion Davies films.

Except Kaplan is primarily funded by taxpayer money, while Davies was in Hearst's own films. There's a difference between biased movie reviews and a newspaper's ability to independently investigate and report on the expenditure of large amounts of federal funds.
posted by zachlipton at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the WaPo story that Greenwald (and people in this thread) linked. I had no idea that Kaplan was offering accredited degree programs as a for-profit school, much less the ugly details described in the article. I'm not a big fan of the Post's habit of walking the administration line, but they've aired some dirty laundry of their own here. Well done to the journalists who wrote that article; now let's see some actual reforms at Kaplan out of it.
posted by immlass at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2011


now let's see some actual reforms at Kaplan out of it.

Mefites are so cute when they're being all hopeful yet naive.
posted by Talez at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2011


Ooh, condescension! You must be wise!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:00 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


it would only be naive if immlass actually expected it to happen. I read "now let's see" as a statement of reserved judgement.
posted by lodurr at 12:08 PM on April 12, 2011


Meanwhile, Andrew Breitbart's all talking about Obama's assault on For-Profit Schools and as Bloomberg notes, the administration took it upon itself to upset the applecart by proposing new limits for-profit school's access to federal funds.

But I'm sure the Big O is not genuinely interested in reforming this industry--he's just trying to run an extortion scheme with the for-profits here so the WaPo will give him more favorable coverage, rite? Rite.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:16 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Greenwald piece is... odd. Unless I missed it, he's complaining about conflicts of interest while providing no actual examples of where said conflicts have interfered with reporting objectivity at the paper?
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on April 12, 2011


I think he's warning that the conflict exists now to a degree it hasn't before, so we need to be more aware of this specific situation and be more vigilant about bias as a result.
posted by hippybear at 12:29 PM on April 12, 2011


it would only be naive if immlass actually expected it to happen. I read "now let's see" as a statement of reserved judgement.

Using "now let's see" is a statement of expectation. A statement of reserved judgement would be something like "now let's see if we see some actual reforms at Kaplan out of it".
posted by Talez at 12:31 PM on April 12, 2011


hippybear: "I think he's warning that the conflict exists now to a degree it hasn't before, so we need to be more aware of this specific situation and be more vigilant about bias as a result."

Perhaps if he hadn't asserted that they would be unable to fulfill their role as a government watchdog and not labeled it "absurd," I'd be inclined to agree.
posted by zarq at 12:32 PM on April 12, 2011


Most of the comments so far don't give any indication that they've read the WaPo piece that Greenwald alludes to

The purpose of MetaFilter is to avoid reading the article(s) altogether, and get straight to the confirmation bias of the snarky comments.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 1:05 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anytime we get a open window into the inner-workings of the mass media, it is a good thing. The more the public is exposed to the reality that most, if not all media messages are (directly or not) corporate messages, the better.

It doesn't really matter if the Greenwald article is soft punches because it is a conversation starter and conversation can lead to change. How we go about transforming the newspaper industry from a business into an actual public service is beyond me though.
posted by archivist at 1:07 PM on April 12, 2011


> now let's see some actual reforms

As long as none of these affects my Ph.D. (from the Close Cover Before Striking Institute) or my ordination (from the Universal Life Church.)
posted by jfuller at 2:26 PM on April 12, 2011


Using "now let's see" is a statement of expectation. A statement of reserved judgement would be something like "now let's see if we see some actual reforms at Kaplan out of it".

So you don't think expectation and reserved judgement are compatible?

I do.
posted by lodurr at 4:47 PM on April 12, 2011


Thing is, I don't see the media's purpose being only to hold the government accountable (that's kind of the boiler-plate libertarian take on things, where the whole world reduces down to free men versus the state in a ridiculously simplified final battle for the soul of man). No, I want the media to hold everyone/thing accountable--especially business interests. So the primary fact of corporate ownership and media consolidation already presents too many opportunities for conflicts of interest to influence the press. Any secondary, indirect influence the Federal government might have over WaPo through its role in regulating the industry WaPo depends on doesn't worry me even half as much, and it seems like a bizarre stretch to focus on "OMG! the gubmint controls the WaPo!", instead of the more accurate "OMG! The For-Profit Education industry controls the WaPo!"

The government also controls broadcast licenses and always has. Is that a story now all of a sudden?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:13 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The government also controls broadcast licenses and always has. Is that a story now all of a sudden?

I think it kind of is, yes: Popular discourse is currently dominated by people who think it's a huge conflict of interest for the government to control broadcasting licenses, and will inevitably lead to boots, stomping, faces, eternity, etc.

You seem to suggest that reality is more complicated than that, and I agree. But it's not an easy view to sell.
posted by lodurr at 7:28 AM on April 13, 2011


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