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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"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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