"Government aid could save U.S. newspapers, spark debate"--that was the Reuters headline featured atop the always-must-read Drudge Report on Wednesday night. Now that Uncle Sam has chosen to bail out so much of the economy--estimates of total federal commitments run as high as $8.5 trillion--some Main Stream Media types must be thinking how unfair it is for them to be left off the federal gravy train in 2009, especially since the MSM has been so good to Barack Obama, favoring him by an 8:1 ratio, according to the public's estimation.

Why shouldn't the media get a bailout, too?
this Reuters article

And in fact, various subsidy efforts--or, if you prefer, bailouts--are already under way in the Nutmeg State: "The state's Department of Economic and Community Development is offering tax breaks, training funds, financing opportunities and other incentives for publishers, but not cash." Well, that's a comfort to opponents of MSM bailouts -- all sorts of valuable subsidies, but not cold cash outright.

Of course, the granddaddy of all media bailouts has gone to General Electric's subsidiary GE Capital, which has gained a $139 billion loan guarantee from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, just since the 2008 election. In addition to owning GE Capital, General Electric also owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC, and so it seems fair to say that the feds are now subsidizing, at least indirectly, the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and almost all of the entire gang at CNBC, who last fall were so vehemently pro-bailout.

But of course, in this new world of infinite bailouts, there's always demand for more. And as the Reuters article details, some MSM-ers are lining up in support of "more":

Former Miami Herald Editor Tom Fiedler said that a democracy has an obligation to help preserve a free press.

"I truly believe that no democracy can remain healthy without an equally healthy press," said Fiedler, now dean of Boston University's College of Communication. "Thus it is in democracy's interest to support the press in the same sense that the human being doesn't hesitate to take medicine when his or her health is threatened. "

But in the cautionary words of the Reuters reporter:

Relying on government help raises ethical questions for the press, whose traditional role has been to operate free from government influence as it tries to hold politicians accountable to the people who elected them. Even some publishers desperate for help are wary of this route.

Providing government support can muddy that mission, said Paul Janensch, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and a former reporter and editor:

"You can't expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it," he said.

Those last wise and cautionary words, from Professor Janensch, are worth repeating: "You can't expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it."

Of course, some say that the MSM is already a lapdog for government power in Washington. But a few billion in bailouts ought to further clinch that government-media alliance, don't you think?

James P. Pinkerton is a Fox News contributor. He is a former White House domestic policy adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.