Monday, February 2, 2009

Endowed Newspapers

The idea of endowed, non-profit newspapers is very interesting. By getting rid of the dependence on market forces, it would allow newspapers to publish more hard-hitting public affairs news, which would certainly be an improvement. I wonder, though, if this might result in fewer people reading the news.

If the endowed newspapers publish only “real” news stories, they wouldn’t meet consumer demand for feature/entertainment/art/travel/food stories. Assuming demand for those stories stayed the same, other publications focused on non-public affairs news may arise. People who are primarily interested in this information would read these new publications instead of the endowed newspapers. Now, instead of skimming some public affairs news on their way to the entertainment sections, these readers would get no news at all.

That said, I would support endowed news sources, as well as government-funded news sources, because citizens should have access to substantial public affairs news. It is up to them to read it.

Thoughts? Also, do any other countries have endowed news sources?

1 comment:

  1. Endowment model in other media i.e.
    TV: PBS
    Magazines: The Nation is sustained in part by a group of more than 30,000 donors called who donate funds to the periodical above and beyond their annual subscription fees

    Here is the article link recently in the NY Times Jen might have seen: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/opinion/28swensen.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

    Here is an article link analyzing the possibility:
    http://www.scientificjournals.org/journals2008/articles/1280.pdf

    It includes historical analysis of what 1880-1930s journalists had to say about the idea.
    Reasons why proposed 100 years ago:
    Economic pressures, rising costs of starting a paper, growing influence of advertisers, unethical journalism/profit-motivated journalism/indecent content

    Possible structures:
    University-subsidized: poly-partisan with profs/experts across the field, cheap labor/students as journalists
    Philanthropist-sponsored:
    Free from financial pressure, less sensational stories that sell, non-partisan

    Why the article concludes it wouldn’t work:
    Misperceptions about what the people wanted – public wants gossip, sensation?
    Too high culture
    If appeal to the educated might be too small to attract many advertisers, no local news
    Underestimation of newspaper startup costs
    Assumed that university presidents and faculty would be able to write in an understandable style that would interest the public
    Potential conflicts of interests – subservient to universities?

    In the end, why it failed in the 1930s:
    They couldn’t find people who would endow
    Could not persuade the public to support the ideal newspaper they visualized/the public did not join the advocates in demanding better newspapers.

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