Feeding the Watchdog
And here, beginning in Connecticut, comes the reasoning that many suspected would arise for a mainstream media bailout:
“I truly believe that no democracy can remain healthy without an equally healthy press,” said Fiedler, now dean of Boston University’s College of Communication. “Thus it is in democracy’s interest to support the press in the same sense that the human being doesn’t hesitate to take medicine when his or her health is threatened.”
Professor Fiedler’s error is one of mechanism: The appropriate manner in which a democracy supports its press is via freely willed financial support, and the way the press ensures such support is by giving citizens what they want and need. If the government props the press up, then it will not make necessary corrections as it continues down a path of bias and unnecessary fluff.
What the media needs is to sharpen its tools and hone its core capabilities — remembering that “gathering news” doesn’t mean snatching reports from wires and larger newspapers, but actually going out and developing fresh information of interest to the paper’s concentrated audience. It’s difficult work, no doubt, and may not employ as many people as the newspapers have hired previously, but it’s the only viable route for a successful and independent industry.
The promise of government — in line with Thomas Sowell’s observation that politicians pledge the impossible — is of ease, but Quinnipiac journalism professor Paul Janensch puts it well when he says, “You can’t expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it.” In the media’s case, the easy way out is an impossibility. Ultimately, readers will know it’s a fraud, and they’ll turn to alternatives such as the Internet, even though hobbyists’ news gathering resources are clearly inadequate.