One of the points raised by bloggers over the new FTC “disclosure” rules is that they don’t apply to traditional media like newspapers. Which is funny when you think about it. After all, the man responsible for the FTC rules, Chairman Jon Leibowitz, has one heckuva conflict of interest himself: He’s married to Ruth Marcus, a veteran editorial writer at the Washington Post.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Leibowitz has taken a personal interest in helping his wife’s employer. The FTC already plans a series of “workshops” later this year to figure out the best way for the federal government to help protect newspapers from new media competition.
Keep in mind, the FTC needs the old-guard newspapers as well. Institutions like the Post and the New York Times — even the nominally anti-FTC Wall Street Journal — are important conduits for presenting pro-intervention messages. An op-ed supporting a particular FTC case can be very useful in persuading a defendant to waive his right to due process and sign an FTC “consent” order. In return, newspapers receive the only thing that makes their product even remotely relevant — access to “confidential” government sources.