Hop with bunnies or die with newsosaurs
My friend Newsasaurus, the found-art sculpture that resides in my courtyard, is puzzled (note the quizzical look in his portrait at the bottom). His living cousin, The Newsosaur, has reflected poorly on the citizen response to an otherwise endangered species.
“An amazing number of smart and sophisticated people continue to harbor the fantasy that philanthropic contributions can take over funding journalism from the media companies that traditionally have supported the press.”
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it creates a problem where none exists. Just who are the “amazing number of smart and sophisticated people” (none of whom are named) who fantasize about throwing good money at a bad business? They’d neither be smart nor sophisticated if they did.
Or this: What exactly is the problem with nonprofits, public citizens and informed sources investing in journalism at a time when newspapers and other media companies are disinvesting in it?
The Sunlight Foundation creates real-time news and tools about transparency in government. The American Red Cross continues to provide unvarnished news from Haiti while raising millions in relief funds through multi-platform tools. Kaiser’s editorially independent health site provides news and information about health-care reforms, health policy, and state-by-state insurance programs for children at a time when most newspapers have dropped health beats. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has committed hundreds of millions to projects that fill the void in communities and journalism, while at the same time leading change in public policy impacting journalism and democracy. The Ethics and Excellence Foundation grants millions by investing in the future of journalism by “building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principle, probing news and information.” The MacArthur Foundation supports the production and distribution of news and documentary programs for television, radio, and the web that help inform the American public about important domestic and international current affairs and policy issues. The list goes on and on and on. And now private citizens are putting up their own money to fund and stimulate a new era for journalism and investigative reporting.
Down with this sort of thing, says the Newsosaur: “Let’s stop dreaming about a visit from the Non-Profit News Bunny.”
That’s Jurassic Age thinking. No one is suggesting that a few non-profits will fund newsgathering the way newspapers used to. But the overall investment in journalistic capital, entrepreneurship and news-providing access through technology far exceeds the shrinking investment by Tyrannosaurus Rex.
There’s no turning back. You can hop with the bunnies or die with the newsosaurs. I’ve got a spot in my courtyard.
Dale is co-founder emeritus of We Media.