Foundations, universities and other third-party organisations must play an increasing role in maintaining public affairs news coverage in the US – as part of their commitment to ‘a continuous public good’, a new report into the future of US journalism has suggested.
The US-focused study looks at the future of ‘accountability journalism’, in particular in an age of declining fortunes for newspapers, who traditionally carried out this role.
The Columbia Journalism School report, written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr and j-school professor Michael Schudson, makes proposals for changes to US tax codes, including recognising news orgs committed to reporting on public affairs as non-profit entities, entitling them to tax-deductible donations.
Collaboration – between journalists, foundations and other stakeholders – will be increasingly important for producing news in the public interest, the report suggests – many such partnerships are already being formed, it observed.
“The report does not envision newspapers disappearing, but it also does not regard restoring newspaper staffs to their former size as possible. It looks forward to a new, mostly digital, era of news production, in which newspapers will continue to have a leading role, but as part of a much larger cast of featured players,” explained Columbia Journalism School dean Nicholas Lemann in a statement.
“It may not be essential to save or promote any particular news medium, including printed newspapers. What is paramount is preserving independent, original, credible reporting, whether or not it is popular or profitable, and regardless of the medium in which it appears,” add Downie and Schudson in the report.
An increasing number of online journalism initiatives suggested to the report authors that a mixture of for-profit, low-profit and non-profit news sources could be developed to support public affairs journalism.
An edited version of the report is available on the Columbia Journalism School website, while reaction and some criticisms can be found on the Columbia Journalism Review site.