by: Jeff Harding
I almost choked when I read Lee Bollinger’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal advocating public financial support of the mainstream media. This is the Lee Bollinger who is the president of Columbia University and was recently named deputy chair of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The article says more about the writer and the mainstream media than it does its subject matter. It is unbelievable and irresponsible that anyone in his position should seriously advocate subsidies for the press.
What Bollinger is saying is that he wants us to pay for news from journalists he thinks we should read, not what we think we should read. As a law professor he is an expert in first-amendment issues. If he is an expert then he is the exemplar of the problem with scholarship and intellectualism in America today. He obviously distrusts our ability to make choices about the news we wish to read; he is eager to supplant our judgment with his. If he believes that forcing us to pay for news services we don’t want is the key to constitutional freedoms and freedom of the press, then we are in trouble because he is in a position to do something about it.
He frames the debate in these terms:
We have entered a momentous period in the history of the American press. The invention of new communications technologies — especially the Internet — is transforming the human capacity to speak, perhaps as monumentally as the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. This is facilitating the largest and fastest expansion of global economic growth in human history. Free speech and a free press are essential to a dynamic economy.
At the same time, however, the financial viability of the U.S. press has been shaken to its core. The proliferation of communications outlets has fractured the base of advertising and readers. Newsrooms have shrunk dramatically and foreign bureaus have been decimated. My best estimate is that there are presently only a few dozen full-time foreign correspondents from the U.S. covering all of China, despite the critical importance of that nation to our future.
Let me translate what he is saying — competition thrives because of new media, yet because newspapers and television journalism have failed to innovate and keep up we must subsidize them, because their reporting is (was) better. He cites NPR, PBS, and BBC as the ideals of journalism. The common theme is that these services are all supported by government.
Reposted from Mises Economics Blog