I felt it a few years ago, when I first started writing for the Star-news. I would work long hours on a story, make a ton of phone calls and work hard on every sentence. For my troubles, I would get the standard freelancers fee of $50 per article. I knew, then, that I was not as important as I should be and that the Newspaper business was truly a business and not what I thought. What did I think it was? I thought it was an institution. I thought that what I was doing mattered. I thought people needed me to go out there and get the story. I wasn’t wrong. But I wasn’t right either. That’s why this article in the Nation, The Death and Life of the Great American Newspaper, is so important. Newspapers are failing because these papers are owned by men who want more money. You know what the problem is with wanting money? You can never have enough of it. The result has been layoffs, putting advertisements on the front pages, getting rid of Weekend-inserts, hiring part-timers and interns to do full-time work, and just general shitty reporting. The reason professionals do professional work is because they get paid well, and have the promise of continuing in their career. Yes, you can love what you do. But you will very quickly hate what you do if you can’t put food on your table, put your kids through college, or graduate with dignity. There are thousands of reporters out there who would do an amazing job if given the chance and the pay to do it. We deserve to have good newspapers, not this crap we read in fifteen minute chunks online. I mean we deserve reading stories that took months to prepare and have a real impact in our society. We deserve that. John Nichols and Robert McCherney say it best in their piece:
We begin with the notion that journalism is a public good, that it has broad social benefits far beyond that between buyer and seller. Like all public goods, we need the resources to get it produced. This is the role of the state and public policy. It will require a subsidy and should be regarded as similar to the education system or the military in that regard. Only a nihilist would consider it sufficient to rely on profit-seeking commercial interests or philanthropy to educate our youth or defend the nation from attack. With the collapse of the commercial news system, the same logic applies. Just as there came a moment when policy-makers recognized the necessity of investing tax dollars to create a public education system to teach our children, so a moment has arrived at which we must recognize the need to invest tax dollars to create and maintain news gathering, reporting and writing with the purpose of informing all our citizens.
This isn’t a choice. We have to have proper newspapers. The quality of our lives depend on it. Please, leave a comment and let’s have a discussion.