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New ways to pay for journalism

Posted by Richard D North in Interrogating the Media / Media / Money / Truth & Trust on 25 October 2009

Why we posted this: The 100-year old business model for journalism is bust. But there are lots of ways of fixing it. Let’s keep the state out of it.

The original story:
“American journalism needs public support”
Leonard Downie
Financial Times
21 October 2009

Summary of the story:
Leonard Downie, a veteran senior journalist, not least with the Washington Post, argues that there is an interesting response to the crisis afflicting the US newspaper market. Funded from all sorts of sources (and even their own pockets), journalists are putting their own journalism, and that of colleagues of many sorts, online. Furthermore, some bloggers - with diverse sources of funding (and none) are putting good journalism on their sites.  

Downie argues that the many varied sorts of funding for this work should include some sort of state subvention too.

livingissues comment:

There is much to celebrate here. The implication is that journalists can:

(1) sometimes become profit-centres in their own right;
(2) usually get their stuff out there very cheaply;
(3) be funded directly to create their journalism.

As Downie says, everyone from universities to philanthropists and special interest groups can fund this new model.

More generally:
We might want to remember that the future of opinion journalism is much less problematic than the future of news-gathering and investigation. Very good opinion can be produced free or is very easy to pay for (by appreciative users of blogs, for instance).

News is not necessarily expensive: many bodies from law courts to firms to armies can produce high quality and invaluable material for virtually no cost and in their own or the public interest. Much of this can be reaily assessed for its accuracy, and outlets will soon gain or lose reputations for accuracy.

But much news is very expensive to produce and the many new outlets may benefit from sort of professional quality monitoring.

Mr Downie’s own piece suggests that there are lots of ways putting that funding in place.(I have argued elsewhere for a National Media Trust).

One could argue that Mr Downie is quite wrong to reach for state support for this burgeoning process. The state’s influence would be stodgy and tend to the monolithic. It could be argued, surely, that this is a case where society could gain strength by informing itself by the involvement of as many voluntary or market sources as possible?

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