Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Isn’t it time we accept the fact that the Internet is here to stay, and that freedom to choose on the net is our best hope for achieving a well-informed populace? Let’s work to make the net serve the public by strengthening open public access rather than strengthening top-down media outlet funding: a demand-side, rather than a supply-side solution to saving the news.

Perhaps the natural approach would be public funding for a freelance system that lets each individual profit according to their readership through a flat rate per unique visitor. If public funding flowed in this manner, then we'd avoid the prohibition on partisanship that normally comes with public funding, and so avoid the kind of de facto corporate-sponsored censorship through manufactured middle ground that reduces the news to advertisement. It's that reduction that leaves few outside the industry bemoaning the loss of print publications.

This approach wouldn't prevent the best journals, such as The Nation, from continuing to host a number of journalists under a single banner. Nor would it interfere with the renaissance of local publications seeking to fill the gaps produced by the fall of the regional papers. These conglomerates could simply get a cut of the journalists' earnings. Sounds kind of right-headed, don't you think?

Of course, we'll still be left with the problem of future shock--the confusion from too much information--but the fact that this is an intrinsic problem with the net illustrates that William Baker needn't worry that the diminishing ranks of newspaper reporters will block the free-flow of information. The end of regional papers isn't the end of the news business. In fact, the new news business will be better than ever, as the disenfranchised are re-enfranchised. Up until now, the stable of reporters didn't include the starving, the uninsured and the ravaged. Instead, we got only disaster journalism that walked hand-in-hand with disaster capitalism, as journalists insulated and controlled by corporate payrolls walked away from catastrophes when the corporations said the news cycle expired. It's past time for the voices of the poorest, the hungriest and the ravaged to persevere against the soap ads. I'll take that any day over ink on my hands.

Yours at sunmoney.org,

Kevin Parcell

St. Augustine, Fl

Oct 1 2009 - 10:10am

Web Letter

I am puzzled by one aspect of this "crisis." The print media use newsprint and other paper at a prodigious rate. Taking into account printing and distribution costs, there must be a substantial savings publishing online. Surely, the issue, then, is that advertising revenues have declined.

Further, I don't subscribe to newspapers or magazines because I travel a lot and postal delivery service is very unreliable where I live. I find I'm reading The Nation or The Economist a week or more after I can purchase them on the newsstands. My local papers aren't much better. In addition, I can get two local papers, four British papers, one American paper (I refuse to even look at the Washington Post anymore) and The Nation on line. The cost is not the issue, timeliness is.

I agree with the author that public support for NPR and PBS and perhaps even the "print" media is appropriate. However, I also agree with another letter-writer that the vagaries of political partisanship expose media taking government grants to political interference. No one knows this better than Canadians like myself. We are witnessing the dismantling of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at the hands of "accountants" appointed by the Conservative (read Reform Party) government bent on the destruction of public radio and TV that "competes" with private media

Maria Radford

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sep 30 2009 - 9:47pm

Web Letter

William Baker maintains that the crisis of American journalism can be resolved by increased government subsidies to NPR and PBS. This is like saying that the cause of peace can be served by subsidies to Boeing, for in fact NPR and PBS have served the corporate agenda for decades now, despite their initial mission as an alternative to the corporate media. Even though these networks rely on listener/viewer contributions, the news agenda is controlled by powerful figures on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, four of whom were appointed by George W. Bush. I doubt that their replacements by Democrats would make much difference, given the sorry drift of the White House, which many leftists now describe as Bush's third term.

Louis Proyect

New York, NY

Sep 29 2009 - 11:02am