LA Times Columnist: 'Bail Out Journalism'

Is this really what it has come to – columnists lobbying the government for a bailout?


Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law school professor, wrote in her last column for the Los Angeles Times on April 9 that it is time for a government bailout for journalism because our way of society is reliant on that profession for its survival.


“If newspapers become mostly infotainment websites – if the number of well-trained investigative journalists dwindles still further – and if we're soon left with nothing but the yapping heads who dominate cable ‘news’ and talk radio, how will we recognize, or hope to forestall, impending national and global crises?” Brooks wrote. “How will we know if government officials have made terrible mistakes, as even the best will sometimes do? How will we know if government officials have told us terrible lies, as the worst have sometimes done? A decimated, demoralized and under-resourced press corps hardly questioned the Bush administration's flimsy case for war in Iraq – and the price for that failure will be paid for generations.”


With that reasoning in mind – that the government needs to pay for its own watchdog is reason for the government to bailout failing her brand of print journalism.

“It's time for a government bailout of journalism,” Brooks declared.


Governments have long been involved with the journalism industry. Brooks may prefer the Canadian and British styles, but some of the more famous examples include Pravda, the journalistic organ of the Soviet Union and the official media outlets of the Chinese government – China Central Television (CCTV), Xinhua – the state-run news agency and People’s Daily – the news outlet of the China’s Communist Party.


Brooks also revealed she is leaving to work for the government as an advisor to the undersecretary of Defense for policy at the Pentagon. She likened the profession she is leaving to a public service comparable to transportation, education and defense – and not a victim of the free market. In Brooks’ wisdom, journalism is a social service and not a business.


“If we're willing to use taxpayer money to build roads, pay teachers and maintain a military; if we're willing to bail out banks and insurance companies and failing automakers, we should be willing to part with some public funds to keep journalism alive too,” Brooks said.


Even more frightening about Brooks’ view is that this government bailout would involve “granting licenses.” Without these measures, she warns newspapers will consist of nothing more than fluff.


“Years of foolish policies have left us with a choice: We can bail out journalism, using tax dollars and granting licenses in ways that encourage robust and independent reporting and commentary, or we can watch, wringing our hands, as more and more top journalists are laid off or bail out, leaving us with nothing in our newspapers but ads, entertainment features and crossword puzzles,” Brooks wrote. “Don't let it happen.”