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?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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