Newsbusters is reporting on a hugely entertaining article in The Guardian written by Yale professor Bruce Ackerman, who is suggesting begging us to start funding a National Endowment for the Investigative Arts. Because, you see, all the big newspapers are going under, and if that happens the world will suddenly lack serious journalists who can investigate, do research, and, well, stuff like that. And that’s bad, of course. And priceless, in a maudlin sort of way:
The traditional newspaper is dying. The Evening Standard has been sold off for a pound to a former KGB agent, the Los Angeles Times is bankrupt and even the New York Times is in trouble. Mexican plutocrat Carlos Slim may become its largest shareholder in return for financing the paper’s billion-dollar debt. Except for the financial press, newspapers have failed to convince readers to pay for online access – and there is no reason to think that readers will suddenly succumb to the charms of PayPal.
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Ahem. Sorry, that just slipped out.
What Professor Ackerman is proposing is this:
“We urge democracies throughout the world to consider the creation of national endowments for journalism that are carefully designed to confront the impending collapse of investigative reporting….
But there are huge costs to losing a vibrant core of investigative reporters covering local, national and international stories. The internet is well suited to detect scandals that require lots of bloggers to spend a little bit of time searching for bits of incriminating evidence. But it’s no substitute for serious investigative reporting that requires weeks of intelligent inquiry to get to the heart of the problem... “[Emphasis mine]
O RLY? How’s that working out for you these days, MSM? Ackerman goes on to suggest:
Here is where our system of national endowments enters the argument. In contrast to current proposals, we do not rely on public or private do-gooders to dole out money to their favourite journalists. Each national endowment would subsidisze investigations on a strict mathematical formula based on the number of citizens who actually read their reports on news sites.
Actually, Mr. Ackerman, I think that’s what’s happening now: the number of citizens who actually read what reporters write is plummeting. It’s not because those reporters are or are not writing in print or online. It is because the vast majority of “reporters” and “journalists” have lost all credibilty with the thinking public. And the thinking public is refusing to shell out good money for distorted or just plain dishonest “news”.
Doling out endowments to reporters whose readership is near zero and likely to remain so simply creates a vast bureauocracy to pay miserable pennies to poor benighted readerless reporters (which would at least create some meaningless but well-paying jobs, so perhaps Prof. Ackerman has a hidden agenda here).