Gibbs On Newspaper Bailout: "I Don't Know What, In All Honesty, Government Can Do About It"

A reporter pressed Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday whether the White House is concerned about the fate of newspapers. Gibbs' reply suggested the White House doesn't see much of a government role in solving the problem. "I have not asked specifically about assistance... I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it." (See Gibbs' full answer below.)

It's a big week for the newspaper industry. The Boston Globe received a reprieve from parent company The New York Times this morning. According to the AP:

The Globe's owner, The New York Times Co., had threatened to close the newspaper unless its unions agreed to $20 million in cuts to annual expenses by midnight Sunday. The company showed labor negotiators a draft of a 60-day shutdown notice, required under federal law, and said it would file it if concession demands were not met. The Guild called that a "bullying" tactic.

On Wednesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) will hold hearings on the fate of the industry. Last month, Kerry sent a letter to the Boston Globe family stating his concern:

"America's newspapers are struggling to survive and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount"

Gibbs' full answer to the newspaper question:

Q A quick question on the Boston Globe today, the news that they may have 30 to 60 days to live. What's the White House's thinking on the newspaper industry right now and whether or not it may need a bailout, since there are a lot of jobs at stake just as with the auto industry; a lot of people talking about the impact on communities like Boston, Seattle, and places that are losing newspapers? How do you evaluate all that?

MR. GIBBS: I have not asked specifically about assistance. I don't think -- I think that might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles. Obviously the President believes there has to be a strong free press. I think there's a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers. So it's certainly of concern. I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it. I would note that looking at some of the balance sheets, I wondered how you guys didn't think $100 million meant a lot a few weeks ago, but looking at some of the balance sheets $100 million seems to me a lot.