This fall we are highlighting thinking about the future of journalism on The Nation’s website, starting with a video from 2009 Nation/Campus Progress Student Journalism Conference. In it, I discuss the collapse of old media as a platform for serious news reporting and commentary and the failure — so far — of new media to come up with functional models for producing journalism sufficient to meet the requirements of citizens in a democracy.
After running through the details of the current crisis, which is seeing the loss of more than 1,000 journalists a month to layoffs and downsizings, the shuttering of international and Washington bureaus at the most rapid rate in the nation’s history and the closures of Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, I argued for government intervention to promote diverse and competitive media that provides citizens with the information they need while highlighting the best and boldest ideas of the political left and right.
That argument is, of course, a reprise of the thinking of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who at the founding of the United States established postal subsidies and a host of related initiatives to develop and sustain and free and competitive press. It leads to the core conclusion: “The corporate sector and the private foundation sector will not or cannot solve this current crisis. If there is to be journalism in the 21st century, there must be government intervention — and it must be the same sort of intervention as we had at the founding of the American experiment.”
The ideas highlighted in the talk come from the new book that Bob McChesney and I have written, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, which will be published at the end of the year by Nation/Perseus/Basic Books.
Here’s a piece that Bob and I just wrote for The Washington Post that outlines some of our thinking:
To Save Journalism, Return to Founding Principles
By Robert W. McChesney and John NicholsFriday, October 30, 2009
President Obama, a self-declared “big newspaper junkie,” fears he might be forced to go cold turkey. “I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said last month to newspaper editors who asked about the crisis that threatens their industry and journalism in general.