Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 6:10 pm

Quote of the Day, journalism edition, plus a couple of hard questions

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea,Journalism — Lex @ 6:10 pm

From commenter Hidari at Crooked Timber, via economist Brad DeLong:

I am sure that Amazon are exploiting their labourers as much as they can and indeed as someone pointed out upthread, Amazon’s long term gameplan is to fire all their manual-labour staff and replace them with robots.

My point was much more basic as I am sure you gleaned…”everyone” (ie all the clever white boys) is convinced that there just must be some way to make money off the internet (long term I mean). Perhaps. But then again perhaps not. (cf. for example here; it is talking about the media but could be talking about anything on the Internet, really: “As traditional journalism disintegrates, no models for making Web journalism—even bad journalism—profitable at anywhere near the level necessary for a credible popular news media have been developed, and there is no reason to expect any in the future.” [Hidari’s emphasis — Lex]

There is probably no better evidence that journalism is a public good than the fact that none of America’s financial geniuses can figure out how to make money off it. The comparison to education is striking. When manag­ers apply market logic to schools, it fails, because education is a cooperative public service, not a business. Corporatized schools throw underachieving, hard-to-teach kids overboard, discontinue expensive programs, bombard stu­dents with endless tests, and then attack teacher salaries and unions as the main impediment to “success.” No one has ever made profits doing qual­ity education—for-profit education companies seize public funds and make their money by not teaching. In digital news, the same dynamic is producing the same results, and leads to the same conclusion.”

First, is quality journalism in fact a public good? If not, then how does one make money at it in the Internet era?

Second, if it is, what do we do about the dilemma that that condition creates? The traditional source of funding for public goods is the public (i.e., government, i.e., all of us). But the key job of quality journalism in a democracy is keeping an eye on the government. The BBC does so fairly well in the U.K., but I could easily see just one redneck committee chairman in the Senate placing an anonymous hold on funding for public journalism just as soon as one of his oxen appeared in danger of being gored.

Third, if we choose to live without quality journalism because there’s no way to support it financially, where do we end up, and what does that mean for the future of the idea of the U.S. as codified in the Constitution?

Serious answers, please. I don’t normally moderate comments to a great extent, but I really want to know what serious answers, if any, people have to these questions, and I’ll spike, with extreme prejudice, any BS responses.


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