From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
With all due respect: please do nothing whatsoever to change or help journalism. Don't reinvent journalism's future. Just leave it alone. Journalism's job is to stay fully independent of government, in order to investigate its motives, publicize its failures (and successes), analyze its workings, and expose its corruptions. That's why it's called the fourth estate --- to emphasize its separation from religion, from commerce, and from government. That separation has worked quite well for a few hundred years. Today, certain journalistic realms may be struggling --- but others are doing just fine. The analysts who wrote the potential policy paper apparently don't realize it, but their words clearly reveal their pernicious agenda. They seem to think that something in journalism needs fixin', and that the FTC is the right outfit to do the job. It don't and they aint. Even if we accept the dubious premise that there are anti-competitive forces at work in the journalism realm, the FTC must recognize that the perils of government intervention in the journalistic ecosystem far outweigh any imaginable benefits it might effect. If ever there was a situation where the Law of Unintended Consequences was waiting to bite somebody in the ass, this is it. As proof, one need only consider the absurd consequences of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (see the FTC's own Town Hall Report on Digital Rights Management) to see how even the most well-meant adjustments can worsen the problems they were meant to solve. If a private enterprise fails its mission, its revenue stream soon dries up. This corrective feedback loop is not used in government agencies. For example, the Department of Energy was created in 1977 to end US dependence on foreign oil --- it has utterly failed its mission and is still increasing its budget every year. If the laws of unintended consequences operate as usual and the FTC harms journalism or the public weal, nobody at the FTC will pay for the mistake. This misalignment of incentives permits bad ideas and efforts to flourish. That's just the way things are. People with no skin in the game are simply not going to do the careful, baby-step experimentation and testing that's typical in private sector ventures. Which means the odds against the FTC's reinvention of journalism turning out well are simply too high. Let some group of journalists reinvent journalism, if that's what's needed. If they botch the job, at least they will have to clean up their own mess. You and I know the government just doesn't work that way.