John Oliver Exposes the Serious Dangers of Billionaires Buying Up Newspapers

We're so used to getting our news for free that we've forgotten what that means for journalism. And as "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver points out, the decades long financial battle newsrooms have been facing affects all of us. Think about local government reporting. While it's not as clickbaity as puppies or a "raccoon cats," it's a crucial part of urban reform. But often, because it does not pay, good local civic reporting is the first thing to go.

"A study of over 200 papers found between 2003 and 2014, the number of full-time State House reporters declined by thirty-five percent," Oliver pointed out. "And that's not good because while there are some great web outlets some of which do cover local government there aren't nearly enough to replace what has been lost."

As "The Wire" creator and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon pointed out, "The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore Zoning Board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we've actually reached some sort of equilibrium." He continued darkly, "There's no glory in that kind of journalism, but that is the bedrock of what keeps [corruption at bay]. The next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a Halcyon era for state and local political corruption.. one of the great times to be a corrupt politician, you know I I really envy them. I really do." 

"He's right," agreed Oliver, "Because not having reporters at government meetings is like a teacher leaving her room of seventh graders to supervise themselves. Best case scenario Brittany gets gum in her hair, worst case scenario you no longer have a school." 

On the flipside having the budget to create less popular pieces often comes at a big price. After a shocking segment about the foul-mouthed billionaire Sam Zell, who acquired the Tribune company and cursed out reporters, Oliver turns to the case of Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas.

"Just look at what happened to the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year," pointed out Oliver. "It was acquired by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and Republican megadonor."

Oliver went on to call Adelson potentially the worst possible owner of a paper in Vegas. Here's why:

"[Adelson is] a big deal in Vegas and his businesses are at the center of a lot of stories the Review-Journal covers," Oliver said. "But while Adelson and the paper's editors have strongly denied that he interferes with news coverage in any way, the editors have admitted that they put any articles about him or his business through a special review process to make sure that they are fair although listen to an ex-Deputy deputy editor describe his experience of that process."


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