Commentary Magazine


Re: Yesterday’s News

As Peter noted, the outcome of the historic transition in journalism that we are witnessing remains entirely unknown.

So here’s one guess that I’ve been tossing around: while most newspapers will either fold or become trimmer online-only publications, a handful of bigger ones will stick around as non-profits.  Basically, they will raise tax-deductible donations from donors who value the cause of journalism — particularly the importance of a well-informed public to a functioning democracy — and support the political slant of the particular newspaper.

Of course, much would change in a non-profit world of journalism.  For starters, endorsing candidates would probably be out of the question, given the requirements of 501(c)(3) organizations.  On the other hand, the greater influence of individual donors in supporting newspapers could contribute to even more biased reporting and coverage.  Moreover, the culture of journalism might also change significantly, with reporters competing for endowed positions (The George M. Steinbrenner III Yankees Beat Reporter, anyone?), as opposed to a spot on the front page.

None of this would be particularly ideal.  But insofar as newspapers are not economically sustainable in the Internet Age, the non-profit newspaper might provide an extra-market solution.