The First Amendment Is Not A Financial Model
Anyone who enjoys the bloodsport of arguing over the future of journalism must bookmark Seattle Times’ editorial page editor James Vesely’s “The Handoff: Newspapers in the Digital Age.”
The folks who edit newspapers’ editorial pages are by now expected to fling tinfoil thunderbolts at the heavens, crying how the world is doomed to an endless hell of YouTube videos unless newspapers can continue to do God’s work on earth. Vesely is clearly a man who loves newspapers and insists on the importance of the work they do. Yet in this excellent piece he avoids most of the sentimental indignations of most of his peers.
My favorite passage:
We can’t rely on the First Amendment to provide us with a paycheck; the First Amendment is not a financial model.
Nobody knows the way out of the mess newspapers have created for themselves with decades of overfeeding at the trough of monopoly: the inflated sense of self-regard that comes from commanding a landscape bare of competition; the habituated conservatism that derives from consistent dividends; the inflexibility of body and mind that follows years of holding one’s place fastly in the midst of a powerful cash flow and negative public opinion.
Vesely understands that merely insisting journalism is important–to the public welfare, to our civic institutions’ quality, to democracy itself–does not guarantee its future.
That may not sound like a profound thought. Among his peers, however, he nearly comes off as a heretic.