New Columbia J-School Report Advocates Government Support for News Media

Bemoaning the decline in advertising for newspapers, two leading media figures, in a report from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, the bastion of establishment liberal journalism, call for taxpayer spending on the news media, advocating that public radio and television be "substantially reoriented" to "provide significant local news reporting" and for the creation of a "a national Fund for Local News" paid by "fees the Federal Communications Commission collects from or could impose on telecom users, broadcast licensees or Internet service providers."

In a Monday op-ed, "Finding a new model for news reporting," former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson, a professor of communication at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, previewed a "comprehensive report commissioned by" the school, "The Reconstruction of American Journalism," which was to be posted Tuesday (PDF version) but was put up late this morning on the site of the school's magazine. Echoing the rationale for ObamaCare, the duo contended the fate of the legacy media is a governmental responsibility:

American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting - as society has, at much greater expense, for public education, health care, scientific advancement and cultural preservation, through varying combinations of philanthropy, subsidy and government policy. It may not be essential to save or promote any particular news medium, including print newspapers. What is paramount is preserving independent, original, credible reporting, whether or not it is profitable, and regardless of the medium in which it appears.

Amongst their proposals, which would inevitably lead to more liberal output from the journalists matching the interests of government bureaucrats and political appointees:

♦ The Internal Revenue Service or Congress should clarify tax regulations to explicitly allow new or existing local news organizations to operate as nonprofit or low-profit entities, allowing them to receive tax-deductible donations, along with advertising revenue and other income.

♦ Public radio and television should be substantially reoriented, through action by and reform of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to provide significant local news reporting in every community served by public stations - reporting that too few of them do now.

♦ A national Fund for Local News should be created with fees the Federal Communications Commission collects from or could impose on telecom users, broadcast licensees or Internet service providers. Grants should be made competitively by independent state Local News Fund Councils to local news organizations for innovations in local news reporting and ways to support it.

Downie, after 17 years at the helm of the Washington Post until September of 2008, is now a journalism professor at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Related, from the MRC's Business & Media Institute: "The Great Newspaper Bailout; Liberals, politicians, journalists want Uncle Sam to save news with your tax dollars."

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center