A friend of mine alerted me to this little bit on page 22 of the Feb.2008 edition of Boston Magazine. Click the image to read it, but the short version is that the Daily Free Press (the independent student newspaper at BU) is in deep doo-doo financially and is considering money from the king of "truthiness": Bill O'Reilly.
Bailing out the Freep??
BILL O'REILLY BAILING OUT THE FREEP?!?!
Okay, I admit...I'm a WTBU grad, and there was a serious rivalry between WTBU and the Daily Free Press. Neither of us had much respect for each other and, in retrospect, neither of us deserved any respect anyways. So there's a certain degree of glee for me that's associated with bad news for the Freep.
And it's not like the Freep is immune to all the problems that have plagued the newspaper industry as a whole in the past ten years. Certainly the arrival of the Boston Metro and BostonNOW have been exceptionally damaging to the Freep...since prior to them, the Freep was indeed Boston's third largest daily newspaper. And the Freep was great for BU students because it was free, readily available all over BU's campus, and a quick enough read to be taken in over lunch...three things both the Metro and BostonNOW are as well, and are (debatebly) better papers to boot.
But dammit. Even I wouldn't wish this on the Freep.
Something that has come up often in my discussions on journalism is that PERCEPTION MATTERS. If you are going to present yourself as an objective source of journalism to your readers, you must be above suspicion of any lack of objectivity.
Bill O'Reilly is the living embodiment of lack of objectivity. Regardless of how he may be in person, his "news show" never fails to bend, or break, the truth. It plays fast and loose with the facts. In short, it has zero regard of objectivity...and it is NOT objective journalism. It is advocacy journalism...and while technically there's nothing wrong with that, I do wish more people in America would realize that fact and take everything Bill says with a fat grain of salt.
Kyle Cheney is simply wrong here: there is very much a reason why the Freep should distinguish between alumni when it comes to financial assistance. If you take Bill's money, you take his taint as well; you can't sell only a small piece of your soul, as it were.
All the more so as O'Reilly is quoted as saying "I need to see exactly what their situation is; then I can come up with a plan to help them." Which is entirely the worst kind of donation: the kind with strings attached. Oh sure, O'Reilly is correct in saying "just to throw them a check ain't going to help in the long run" because the problems with the Freep are endemic to the newspaper industry as a whole. But to turn to O'Reilly to develop strategies for dealing with those problems means you're going to sensationalize the news and turn the Freep into a print version of the "No Spin Zone" because, fiscally, that's what's worked for O'Reilly and Fox News in general.
But that doesn't mean it's the only solution, and it sure as hell doesn't mean it's the RIGHT solution. The last thing this world needs is several hundred little Fox News disciples churning out of the Daily Free Press every year.
As an alum, I don't give anything to Boston University because the school was far too focused on business and profits when I was there. That's changed somewhat since former BU President John Silber left, but nowhere near enough. That the Freep is even considering having O'Reilly restructure them is just more evidence that my alma mater is still not worthy of my donations.