While U.S. financial institutions and the auto industry are yearning for government bailouts amid the financial crisis, a prominent U.S. columnist has suggested the government bailout journalism to better serve public interests.
Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks wrote in her latest column on Thursday that before she was escaping "a dying industry," she would like to touch on the issue of whether the U.S. government should bailout journalism.
"If we're willing to bailout banks and insurance companies and failing automakers, we should be willing to part with some public funds to keep journalism alive too," she said.
Brooks defended her position by saying that most other democracies provide far more direct government support for public media than the U.S. does. Canada spends 16 times as much per capita and Britain spends 60 times as much.
The U.S. government already "doles out" tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect (media) subsidies, including free broadcast, cable and satellite privileges, but these are far from enough, she said.
Brooks said bailout of journalism can "encourage robust and independent reporting and commentary; otherwise, "we can watch, wringing our hands, as more and more top journalists are laid-off, leaving us with nothing in our newspapers but ads, entertainment features and crossword puzzles."
Brooks is not alone raising the idea. Bob McChesney and John Nichols wrote recently in The Nation magazine that the crisis America is facing "involves more than mere economics."
"Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States," they said.
They warned that "unless we rethink alternatives and reforms, the media will continue to flail until journalism is all but extinguished."
The solution they found to avert the crisis is to have government support. They proposed "an immediate journalism economic stimulus."
They suggested elimination of postal rates for periodicals that garner less than 20 percent of their revenues from advertising. "This keeps alive all sorts of magazines and journals of opinion that are being devastated by distribution costs. It is these publications that often do investigative, cutting-edge, politically provocative journalism," they said.
"The old corporate media system choked on its own excess ... we have to move forward to a system that creates a journalism far superior to that of the recent past.
"We can do exactly that -- but only if we recognize and embrace the necessity of government intervention," they said.
The remarks met with disagreement from some readers on websites.
One reader named Kevin said "government money will not fix the ethics of journalism. It will only serve to limit freedom of the press and expand government largess."
Another, Bryan Galt, said capitalism may fail to secure a balanced and independent press despite a Constitution that pledges freedom of speech.
"What we are witnessing is the acceleration of pushing journalism to become nothing more than a mind numbing, infotainment blended white noise that prevents the real truths from coming to the forefront any longer. This undermining has not occurred as the result of any laws that challenged the first amendment, it's capitalism gone awry," he said.