Get Over That "Outdated fear of government help" for Journalism!

The house organ for elite media opinion, The Columbia Journalism Review, has unsurprisingly editorialized in favor of federal government assistance to the journalism industry, under the nausea-inducing headline, "A Helping Hand."

We are not in favor of a bailout for the newspaper business, and we certainly don't support subsidies that would simply prop up the status quo. But it seems increasingly clear that, at least in the short term, sustaining the kind of accountability journalism that our society needs—and that newspapers have been the chief producers of—will require some creative help from Uncle Sam. And not because newspapers failed to adapt to the digital age. Ultimately, this isn't about newspapers. [...]

These are worthy ideas that should be part of the debate, but most important they are ideas that treat journalism as an indispensable public good, on par with our transportation infrastructure, the social safety net, public universities, etc. Government has always subsidized the press in this country, starting with legislation in 1792 that established below-cost mail rates for newspapers. Over the years, some subsidies have worked well, others less so. But the idea that a purely commercial media alone can continue to deliver the journalism we need is becoming difficult to swallow. If we don't get beyond the rational but outdated fear of government help for accountability journalism—if we just let the market sort it out—this vital public good will continue to decline.

But is "this vital public good" really declining? Is the net total of "accountability journalism" produced in the United States less than it was last year, five years ago, 10 years ago? My hunch is that it's not. More imporantly, I have *never* seen any subsidy-seeking, woe-is-media type make a good-faith attempt to document an answer to that question. Instead, they point to job and content losses at the most elite outlets, even express open contempt for the fact that news now comes from nontraditional sources (that is, when not complaining about "media monopoly"), then throw their hands up in the air.

Reason on journalism bailouts here. Link via the Twitter feed of Jay Rosen, who asks: "If taxpayers are to support accountability journalism then how is journalism to be held accountable by taxpayers?"

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  • WWJGD||

    Where would this place be without Google Images?

  • Phoenix||

    Haha! Of course they want federal aid!

    1. All left wing liberals want hand outs SO THEY DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE TO WORK!
    2. It gives them cover for writing obviously partisan and bias articles! They can say that Prez BO told them to, and since "He is paying the bills, we have to do what the BOSS says!"
    3. "OBAMA MONEY! OBAMA MONEY!"
    -"So where does Obama money come from?"
    ~"OBAMA!"
    -"But where does Obama get it from"
    ~"I DON'T KNOW, HIS STASH?!"
    -"But where does he get his "Stash" of money from?"
    ~"WE DON'T CARE! ALL WE KNOW IS WE IS GETTIN' OBAMA MONEY! WE WON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR OUR RENT OR OUR GAS NOW! OBAMA MONEY!"

    Sick and lazy persons mentality...

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    I must know where that image is from.

  • Matt Welch||

    Almost-great and certainly very interesting movie from a few years back, think it was called "The Science of Sleep."

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Oh, Michel Gondry's work. The guy's a genius. I'll have to see it, thanks.

  • JB||

    Was a good movie.

  • ||

    He's a pachyderm artificial insemination technician.

  • ||

    How exactly does making journalism dependant on government support make it more "accountable"?

    I should think that absent subsidies, journalists would be MORE accountable, to their readers, to the market. A guy with a state check can lie all day and not have to worry about losing readers. A blogger who depends on his credibility for readership has to be careful about his sources and accuracy.

    Yes, this assumes that readers actually want the truth, as opposed to something that will confirm their biases. But there is at least some demand for raw, unfiltered, news out there, sans commentary, and it will be more accountable to the market then it would be with a government official standing behind the desk with a checkbook.

  • ||

    It's just standard left/liberal thinking: X is a good thing and needs money, therefore the government should give it money. And if you oppose that, it proves you're a bad person because you're against good things.

  • Meta4||

    Obama Take Over Checklist (Inspired by Hugo Chavez)

    Banks...Check
    Financial Firms...Check
    The Auto Industry...Check
    Heathcare...In Progress
    The Energy Industry...In Progress
    The Media...In Progress
    Other Industries as he sees fit...In Progress

  • anon||

    If the NYT went under, I don't know where I'd go for my daily dose of hard hitting Soviet apologetics.

  • ||

    "rational but outdated" fear of government help??

    i didn't realize there was a experation date on being rational.

    to answer a previous posters question that image is from the movie "the science of sleep'' directed by michel gondry.

  • ||

    Ah, t.j., you fail to see their point. Now that the evil Republicans are gone, there is no need to mistrust government. Who needs checks and balances when the Very Smart People are in charge?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Thanks, t.j.

  • ||

    "i didn't realize there was a experation date on being rational."

    +1

  • ||

    We are not in favor of a bailout for the newspaper business

    ... but we're going to ask for your money anyway.

  • ||

    most important they are ideas that treat journalism as an indispensable public good, on par with our transportation infrastructure, the social safety net, public universities, etc.

    Oh boy another list of public goods in which none of the items listed are public goods. And this guy wants to be my latex salesman?

  • nicole||

    Shh! They're not biased! They swear!

  • ||

    By "public good" they mean "run by the government and/or leftists."

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Fuck government journalists. And government artists. And so on and so forth.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Oh, and fuck the Columbia Journalism Review, too.
    (Hunter Thompson beat me to that sentiment by 35 years.)

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Quoth H.S.T.:
    The only hope for the Review is that the current editor dies of brain syphilis.
    Apparently, that great truth still holds.

  • Spanish Bombs||

    You need to get over the rational but outdated idea that truth is important.

  • ||

    Pay the piper and call the tune. Yes, I'm cynical enough to believe that is what would happen.

  • ||

    There will be at least one big advantage of Republicans taking back the government in 2010 and 2012. It will end all thoughts of lefty journalists asking for a govenrment bailout. They only want the bailout money because they think their side will be in charge forever. Since they spend their lives doing the DNC's bidding anyway, there isn't much danger of the govenrment strong arming them. Once the other side takes over, they will reawaken to the danger of government funded journalism.

  • ||

    How can the government help "accountability journalism"? You cannot speak the truth to power if the power is paying your bills, even Consumer Reports gets that! Look at everyone else who has received money from the government he past 2 years and how Congress thinks it has a right to interefere in their decisions because they took money. It's like taking money from the mob. Have they all gone insane?

    No actually, this is not about protecting journalism, it's about propping up leftwing propaganda outlets. They don't care about government control forcing people to write or not write certain things, because they like the people who happen to be in control right now.

    In 2 years when the Republicans gain more in Congress they won't be singing that tune, they don't want to go back to Republicans believed they could interfere in PBS because it was public owned, they will interfere with anyone else who took govt. money too. They just aren't thinking that far ahead. Or maybe they are, and that's why they want govt to start taking over the media now and squash FOX and radio and the internet.

  • Episiarch||

    It's fascinating how stupid partisans become when their side is in power. We saw the Republicans do it for years with Bush; and the Dems are doing all they can to get stupider faster under Obama.

    There's a very concrete reason joe left, because even an insanely stubborn jackass like him couldn't take the beatdown that was coming for anyone who tows the Dem party lion. Donkey. Whatever.

  • ||

    It is not Dem related, but God I wish Joe was man enough to show up for the beatdown he so richly deserves for Pzfizer never developing the land at issue in Kelo. That jackass defended Kelo to the last man.

  • ||

    As I recall, joe was against the Kelo taking in particular. Obviously he supported the use of eminent domain for non-public use, but he didn't think that particular taking was legit.

  • Spartacus||

    If you take money from politicians, your income will be based on politics.

    This statement should be laser-etched onto the forehead of everyone in journalism and the arts. And probably academia. And maybe everyone else, too, just to be safe.

  • ||

    In ten years 99% of the population will consist of government employees and welfare beneficiaries.

  • ||

    For everyone who thought that the real problem would be a "1984" society, please watch "Brazil"

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Sadly, I think the CJR editors are completely sincere in their belief that this would be a Good Thing, which is far more pathetic than would be a cynical attempt at "propping up leftwing propaganda outlets."

  • ||

    Fine. New media will take the place of the Fourth Estate as it merges with NPR and PBS. So long, and thanks for all of the fish-wrapping paper.

  • Mad Max||

    From the CJR article:

    'Government has always subsidized the press in this country, starting with legislation in 1792 that established below-cost mail rates for newspapers.'

    Gosh, here's a funny thing - the mail subsidy for newspapers has historically opened the door to censorship. In World War One, the Post Office yanked the second-class mailing privileges of opposition newspapers - that is, they withdrew the subsidy in a discriminatory manner, promoting progovernment organs over antigovernment organs.

    And the very fact of having publishers rely on the Post Office to deliver their product allowed for federal censorship, including the censorship of abolitionist literature (including abolitionist newspapers) in the early 19th century and the Comstock Act starting in the late 19th cent (not that I'm automatically a fan of legalized porno, but the Post Office was able to take legal shortcuts with allegedly obscene publications, including H.L. Mencken's American Mercury).

    Don't forget the patronage practice of the feds giving jobs and printing contracts to their favorite editors.

    But I'm sure those bugs will be worked out with the next newspaper subsidy.

  • ||

    Amazing that a publication that syles itself as a "journolism review" doesn't know any of that history. They are either amazingly ignorant or dishonest and failing to mention it.

  • ||

    "They are either amazingly ignorant or dishonest and failing to mention it."

    One does not preclude the other.

  • Paul||

    Mad Max, this is an excellent historical note. Can you link?

  • Mad Max||

    Here is a little thing about the H.L. Mencken case - including discussion of WWI censorship and a list of a few sources.

  • Mad Max||

    And I should mention The Freedom-of-Thought Struggle in the Old South, which mentions how the Post Office cooperated with the slave states in censoring antislavery material.

  • Paul||

    if we just let the market sort it out—this vital public good will continue to decline.

    Yeah, buh-bye now...

  • Tyler||

    This arrogance and elitism is made even worse when this jackass is literally trying to steal my money. Otherwise, it would only be annoying. And they wonder why no one is buying their stuff!

  • RM||

    Actually, nobody gives a shit about this whole subject who isn't currently a journalist.

  • JB||

    They should change their name to the Communist Cocksucking Retards.

    It would be more accurate.

  • Phoenix||

    lmfao...it hurts!

  • ||

    Rob (steal) from the rich to give to the poor(lazy)

  • cooperscopy||

    So does that meann if the government bails out journalists, Obama will have a say over what they right just like he's done with Wall Street and the car companies. He'll be giving new meaning to state run media...

    http://cooperscopy.blogspot.com/

  • cooperscopy||

    I meant to say , "will he have say over what they write." sorry about that..

    http://cooperscopy.blogspot.com/

  • ||

    Brilliance at work...

    Pick another (supposed) failing industry that should make money based on public demand (sales) and give them our tax money to continue doing their questionable work. When sales don't increase they fail anyway and our money is wasted. Meanwhile they are now dependant upon our gov so their (supposed) independent journalism is now scewed away from questioning authority.

  • ||

    I apologize, but I cannot overlook words spelled incorrectly. It's: dependent. And, it's: skewed.

  • ||

    NO! NO! NO! More Government Control!!!

  • ||

    I can't see why not. Consider it backpay from the Democratic runoff until now.

  • Roxie S||

    LEAVE THE TAXPAYERS ALONE LEACHES. YOU HAVE BLED THE COUNTRY DRY.

  • ||

    Fourth Estate gives way to BIGGOVERNMENT serving as Fifth Wheel.

  • Reasonsjester||

    The notion of the supposed fourth branch of government being paid by the other three to keep them in check as a "public good" shows what mental mush is stuffed into the craniums of the leftist wizards of smart these days.

  • ||

    The first step in any coup is take over the broadcast and print media...

    "All your news are belong to us now."

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