The New York Times has posted surprisingly high third-quarter earnings amid a resurgence of debate over the solution to journalism's woes. Recent suggestions have ranged from getting the government to adopt the news industry (as it has education) to bending the law so newspapers can revamp themselves into hotbeds of sports betting:
- Publicly Fund Local News--Like Education That's the suggestion of the former executive editor of the Washington Post. Leonard Downie, writing in the Financial Times, recaps and defends a much longer Columbia School of Journalism report he recently co-authored. He suggests a "a national fund for local news with money the federal government collects from, or could impose on, American telecom users, broadcast licensees or internet service providers." The argument?
This would represent somewhat unusual government involvement in news reporting in the US, with its First Amendment tradition of press freedom. But it is similar to the way that government, through independent bodies like the one we are proposing, helps the arts and scientific and medical research.
News reporting, especially the sort that holds accountable those with power and influence throughout the nation, has been a vital part of American democratic life. It may not be essential to save any particular news medium, including printed newspapers. What is paramount is preserving independent, credible news reporting.
- Embrace the Change--And Stop Whining, Please Henry Blodget, who may have merely skimmed that last paragraph of Downie's, took this for yet another plan to save newspapers. He pleads for an end to "tales of woe" that "aren't really about 'journalism,'" so much as "newspapers and change." Journalism, he points out, "is alive and well, as evidenced by the still-robust health of companies like Bloomberg and
Reuters, the survival of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and
other great news organizations, the hyper-growth of online news and
commentary sites, and the rise of social media." He thinks, too, that there are advantages to the new system: "Would we really have gotten a better sense of the Iran protests from a
single NYT bureau instead of thousands of Twitter and Facebook images? Would CBS's fake National Guard documents have been outed so rapidly?"
- Let's Turn the New York Times Into a Casino The New York Times' Maureen Dowd has a question: "Can vice save journalism?" She's casting her vote for a plan to "save newspapers by allowing sports betting on newspaper Web sites." The New York Times could, she points out, co-opt what is currently a tremendously profitable mob operation. She's also rather pleased by the idea of newspapers moving back to their disreputable roots.