Posted by: Cindy Downes | October 25, 2009

The Reconstruction of American Journalism

I just read through the document, The Reconstruction of American Journalism by Leonard Downie, Jr. and Michael Schudson. I found it a bit disturbing.

The article discusses the current transition of traditional media in light of the Internet, and the future funding of traditional media.

“As this report will explain, credible independent news reporting cannot flourish without news organizations of various kinds, including the print and digital reporting operations of surviving newspapers. But it is unlikely that any but the smallest of these news organizations can be supported primarily by existing online revenue. That is why we will be exploring a variety and mixture of ways to support news reporting, which must include nonmarket sources like philanthropy and government.” (emphasis mine)

The authors recommend creating government-sponsored news organizations (tax exempt and government funded – in part or in full) as the solution to this problem.

In addition, they want universities to train students in “enterprise and accountability journalism, which by definition bring new information to light, can grow into society-changing work not that dissimilar to academic research that makes original contributions to knowledge in history and the social sciences.” (emphasis mine)

My question is: if government funds the news media, who is going to watch the government? Will we be able to criticize the government if they control the media? Isn’t this a problem in China?

Also, is it the role of news reporting to “change” society? What happened to news reporters simply reporting the news? Using the media to “change” society sounds like propaganda to me. Do we really want government-sponsored, propaganda-based news?

You may (or may not) agree with the current government or like some of the current media offerings, but what will happen when we get a new batch of politicians? How will these people restrict free speech in the process of “supporting” news reporting and “providing” independent reporting. How will this or a new administration want to “change” society using the media or restricting the use of media? You can’t just look at one administration. These rules will evolve as the government evolves, either for good or for bad.

I, for one, am tired of our government bailing out failed and/or outdated companies using taxpayer money. We didn’t bail out the manual typewriter manufacturers or the stagecoach manufacturers. I’m sure jobs were lost, but progress created new jobs in the same or in new industries. If the traditional media dies, a new media industry will take its place. New jobs will be created and media will still be independent of government. Then let’s spend our government money on reeducating those who lost jobs so they can compete in the new industries.

If we keep bailing out automobile manufacturers, banks, and newspapers with government funding, we may keep the same jobs, but will it be worth it? What will we lose in the process?

Cross posted on Socially Orange.

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