Books: The Death and Life of American Journalism

How the government could save the media.

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Until someone comes up with a surefire rescue plan for journalism, pretty much any proposal is worth a listen. Media critics Robert McChesney and John Nichols give it their best with a big, bold idea: Government intervention will save the media. It’s a controversial concept, to say the least. How can journalists act as watchdogs of the very folks who pay to keep their lights on? Instead of proposing direct aid, the authors focus on a broad set of proposals that they argue would keep the press both solvent and independent. These include vouchers for readers to support the online or print publication of their choice, an AmeriCorps program for aspiring reporters, reduced postage rates for periodicals, and tax credits to fund journalists’ salaries. McChesney and Nichols know that not all of their ideas will take hold, but they maintain that if even a few did, the media could become a diverse, thriving mix of reporting and opinion.

The projected price tag to get all this off the ground: Roughly $35 billion, paid for by new taxes on consumer electronics, advertising, and smartphones, among other things. Good luck selling that in today’s financial and political climate. (Can’t you already hear the Fox News headlines about bailing out the liberal media?) McChesney and Nichols do make a convincing case that the costs of saving serious journalism are nothing compared to what will be lost if it withers away, quoting Joseph Pulitzer: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.” But we already knew that, right?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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