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Whither journalism and newspapers?

The revelation of the widespread surveillance of Americans - via phone, emails and the internet - can be directly attributed to Glenn Greenwald's article in The Guardian. This in a time when newspapers are under severe threat. The death of newspapers has seen many cities, around the world, having no newspapers at all.

The Greenwald piece again highlights why the Fourth Estate is as critical as ever! The independence of a vibrant press is something taken up, perhaps ironically, by Greenwald himself in another piece "Reader Funded Journalism" in The Guardian.

As governments and private financial power centers become larger, more secretive, and less accountable, one of the few remaining mechanisms for checking, investigating and undermining them - adversarial journalism - has continued to weaken. Many of these large struggling media outlets don't actually do worthwhile adversarial journalism and aren't interested in doing it, but some of them do. For an entity as vast as the US government and the oligarchical factions that control it - with their potent propaganda platforms and limitless financial power - only robust, healthy and well-funded journalism can provide meaningful opposition.

For several years, I've been absolutely convinced that there is one uniquely potent solution to all of this: reader-supported journalism. That model produces numerous significant benefits. To begin with, it liberates good journalists from the constraints imposed by exclusive reliance on corporate advertisers and media corporations. It enables journalism that is truly in the public interest - and that actually engages, informs, and inspires its readers - to be primarily accountable to those readers.

Reader-supported journalism also democratizes political discourse and injects otherwise excluded perspectives; it does so by enabling the funding of a platform for those who want to cover issues and advocate perspectives unwelcome in most large corporate conglomerates. It provides a crucial alternative to the easiest careerist path for journalists to make a living: working for and serving the most powerful and wealthiest corporate factions. Under this model, it is only the journalists who people perceive are providing a real public value who are supported.

And, probably most importantly, this model elevates the act of journalism into a collective venture, where readers are invested in the adversarial pushback against powerful institutions that good journalism provides. Readers become a part of it and the causes it advances, rather than just passive recipients of a one-way monologue. In sum, it's vital that journalism be funded not only by large corporate interests with homogenous agendas but by citizens banding together as well.

 

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