Page 2 Progress on Point 17.7
journalists and media operators more dependent upon the State; (2) compromise pressindependence and diminish public trust in the free press; and (3) result in governmentdiscrimination in the politically inescapable dilemma of determining eligibility for subsidies. Allthis would be inordinately burdensome upon taxpayers, who would effectively be subsidizingfailed or failing business models. Moreover, there are better ways to assist struggling mediaenterprises and to facilitate expanded investigative reporting and newsgathering than bymeans of a massive infusion of state subsidies.
A WPA for the Press?
Although there has been no widespread outcry from journalists or media entities for a federal
“journalism bailout,” a few advocates have called for increased government meddling in thebusiness and work of the “Fourth Estate.”
These suggestions are often justified as necessary to
stem the financial “bleeding” that many media enterprises are suffering. For example, Rosa
Brooks, formerly of
The Los Angeles Times
s time for a government bailout of journalism.
re willing to use taxpayermoney to build roads, pay teachers
and maintain a military; if we’
re willing tobail out banks and insurance companies and failing automakers, we should bewilling to part with some public funds to keep journalism alive too.
This notion of treating journalism as a public good and supporting it through sizeable statesubsidies is given its fullest elucidation and defense by the regulatory activist group, Free Press,and its founder, Robert W. McChesney, the prolific neo-Marxist media scholar who teaches atthe University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For example, Free Press has called for a
National Journalism Strategy
,” a veritable industrial policy for the press, based upon “
the clearneed for government action if a public good
public service journalism
is not delivered by theinvisible hand of the market.
Similarly, along with co-author John Nichols, McChesney writesin his new book,
that “if Americans want sufficient
The term “Fourth Estate” is used generally now to refer to the press. Its origins are somewhat murky, but oneof the earliest uses appeared in Thomas Carlyle’s
On Heroes and Hero Worship
: “Burke said there were Three
Estates in parliament; but, in the Re
porters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far thanthey all.” Carlyle, Thomas,
Sartor Resartus & On Heroes and Hero Worship
, E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc. (1954) at392 (Lecture V
“The Hero as a Man of Letters” (1840)). Coincidentally
, in the very same lecture, Carlyle
responded to suggestions that the literary, “thinking” class in his day needed taxpayer support: “One remark I
must not omit, that royal or parliamentary grants of money are by no means the chief thing wanted! To giveour Men of Letters stipends, endowments and all furtherance of cash, will do little towards the business. Onthe whole, one is weary of hearing about the omnipotence of money. I will say rather that, for a genuine man,it is no evil to be poor; that ther
e ought to be Literary Men poor.”
. at 394.
Bail Out Journalism
Saving the News: Toward a National Journalism Strategy,