The better alternative is to act now, before panic ensues, and actually change the way we think about journalism. Is it a product that corporations sell to us in whatever form is most profitable, and only as long as the money keeps flowing? Or is it something that we think of as a public good and value for its own sake?
If we choose the latter, we should urge the incoming administration to create a new National Endowment for Journalism – let’s call it the NEJ – a federal fund aimed at supplementing the free market for media and enhancing the aspects of journalism that contribute most to the public welfare
One simple idea would be to create an enterprise reporting fund where editors at existing newspapers (or radio stations, TV stations or websites) could apply for money to execute reporting projects they couldn’t otherwise afford, allowing them to pay for staffing, reporting expenses, travel abroad and production of in-depth international or investigative coverage.
The Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting has been funding reporting using this model on a smaller scale for several years with a lot of success (disclosure: the CLP received a Pulitzer Center grant last year for reporting on water scarcity in East Africa). Newspapers would keep the same means of distribution, but could grow their revenues by delivering an enhanced product at little additional cost.