From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
Some of the things which the FTC appears to be considering include public funding or public support of news organizations or journalists. I urge them to avoid the temptation. There is not question that the increased presence of the internet has had a significant impact on how people get their news and the organizations that provide. As with any significant change there are positive and negative aspects to the change. On the positive side most people now have a much broader range of news options available to them including all of the major newspapers and news services as well new independent newsletters. On the negative side it is providing increased competition to traditional news sources, particularly conventional newspapers, many of which are struggling financially. These newspapers have provided a tremendous service to the public over the years and there is a natural tendency to try to find ways to help them survive. However, one of the strengths of our country has been a free and independent press -- a press that has felt itself free to openly criticize our government, our systems and our politicians. It was a free press that uncovered an untold number of government scandals, Watergate being one of the most notable. While I recognize that the FTC’s goal in using tax dollars to subsidize journalism is intended to maintain the strength of this free press, over the long term it is inevitable that public funding will undermine its independence. Maybe not at first, but as news organizations become dependent on public funding they will become subject to government questioning of radical and unpopular positions. Do we want to provide government funding to an organization that would advocate racism and overturning the equal rights laws? No, I would not, but such advocacy is legitimate (even if repellent) and it leads to the question of what we support and what we don’t and who makes those decisions. In summary, while intending to do good I am afraid that any financial support of journalism will diminish it’s independence which is one of the major strengths of our country. I encourage you to resist that temptation which will bring us one step closer to 1984.