Sep 1 2009

Letters to the Editor

The Future of Journalism

I welcomed Extra!’s special issue on the future of journalism and especially enjoyed Jim Naureckas’ piece, in which he rightly points out:

Giant for-profit companies do not have the same interests as the public at large. And if any sort of entity is able to set aside its own interests when reporting the news, it’s not going to be institutions that are required by law to seek the highest level of profit in everything they do…. In short, the quality of news we get is about what you’d expect to get from the kind of media structure we have.

However, in celebrating the possibilities of the Internet, tweeted citizen journalism, foundation-funded reporting, etc., FAIR seems to overlook an important point: Currently, giant for-profit corporations developed and are underwriting, profiting from and still controlling the existence of these very things:

  • The Internet and various online services were developed and are run by corporations (e.g., Sysco, Google, ISPs, etc.).
  • Mobile devices were developed and are sold by corporations (Verizon et al.).
  • Private foundation endowments typically derive their money from corporate profits, or in the case of family foundations, from wealth maintained by being invested in Wall Street.

    So if we would improve and possibly reinvent journalism, we must somehow find the ways and means to divorce reporting and publishing the news from various forms of corporate media and corporate funding as much as possible. Until then, we’ll have to find ways to best deal with our corporate umbilical cords.

    Moreover, some of what we need to ensure good and even great journalism already exists in the form of the alternative print media, which needs a huge influx of funding not only so it can continue to exist, but also so it can pay reporters a living wage, which for the most part it currently does not. (Decently paid writers can generate more news more often than moonlighting ones, as you rightly point out elsewhere in the issue.) Conventional indy media isn’t really broken, just broke. So in addition to investing time, ideas and money on building the tweet-o-sphere, let’s set aside a chunk of resources to ensure a steady stream of funding for the operating budgets of FAIR, Ms., In These Times, et al.

    Miranda Spencer

    Freelance writer & editorial consultant

    Philadelphia, Pa.

    Spencer is a frequent contributor to Extra!.

    Considering that some of the best journalism in the world these days is being done by government-sponsored networks like Al Jazeera, TeleSur and BBC, it’s hard to understand why such a model was not even worthy of consideration during the course of multiple articles on “The Future of Journalism.”

    Eli Stephens

    Left I on the News (

    Cupertino, Calif.

    Single-Payer Healthcare

    Why such corporate cooperation with the opposition to sensible universal medical care (“Single-Payer & Interlocking Directorates,” 8/09)?

    One hypothesis among many is that the stronger the generally available safety net, the less desperately dependent on keeping their jobs or getting jobs people will be. That insecurity, which I observe in my work (crisis counseling at workplaces) as having grown in recent years, can make employed and unemployed workers all the more malleable and less demanding as employees, and some employers want to take advantage of that. I believe there’s a quote from Fed chair Alan Greenspan in the mid-’90s about a certain amount of worker insecurity being good for business interests.

    Thanks for telling this story, which shows a non-healthcare company defending the current healthcare system as if it were a duty to its own interests, so maybe someone conceives of that defense as in the corporate interest.

    Too cynical? OK, maybe this isn’t a conscious plan of anyone’s, but the status quo surely has the effect I described.

    Joe Maizlish

    Los Angeles, Calif.

    I applaud your efforts to get media to discuss single-payer healthcare. I suggest that you also focus on getting the major polling organizations to ask the question. They keep asking questions about healthcare that dance around the issue. The answers allows the politicians (and news organizations) to skillfully exploit the paradoxical answers.

    We need a straightforward, plain, single-payer question. It must have three parts: 1) Get rid of for-profit health insurance, 2) replace it with a universal national health plan, and 3) pay for it with taxes. The answer to this question cannot be ignored or spun to mean anything but what it asks.

    In October of 2003, the Washington Post/ABC News poll ( asked the proper question:

    Which would you prefer—the current health insurance system in the United States, in which most people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance; or a universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that’s run by the government and financed by taxpayers?

    The responses: universal program, 62 percent; current system, 33 percent; no opinion, 6 percent.

    Derrick Duehren

    Single Pay USA

    Tigard, Ore.