The Curious Argument for Socialized Journalism: Gov't Subsidies Helped End Slavery

It's no secret the traditional journalistic business model doesn't work in an era where advances in technology have increased flow and velocity of information. Those changes have rendered many forms of communication obsolete and made journalism a difficult way to make a living. 

This has concerned some on the left who are convinced the ways of the past are vital to a democratic nation, including John Nichols, co-founder of Free Press and the co-author of "The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again," with Robert McChesney. Both authors appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16 to make the case for some sort of government policy to help this flailing trade and pointed to history as an example of how the media effected change. The amount of government funding they settled on was $30 billion annually.

"At some fundamental level the one thing we have to get back to is this notion that if we want an America that is fully democratic, really does confront the question of bankrupt government and a government that has other priorities, we're going to have to remember how we did in the past," Nichols said. "The greatest bankruptcy in this country was the founding on the original sin of human bondage. That was a horrible event and for the first 70 years of the American experiment, the Congress did not debate slavery."

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However, according to Nichols, it took the media to make people realize slavery was wrong at that time in history. And as he explained, at that time some forms of media were propped up postal subsidies from the federal government.

"Because of postal subsidies, because of resources coming from the government, the abolitionist press went out and forced that debate at the local level, in communities across this country," Nichols said.

Based on this reasoning, Nichols suggested it's time to consider reinstituting government aid for the media and journalism in particular because there societal ills to overcome, or as he says the country is in at the point in history at a "founding moment."

"The fact of the matter is that in our history, we have an example of how with enlightened support of a broad, diverse and dissenting media in this country, we've been able to confront the most challenging, the most overwhelming problems that we've faced," Nichols said. "We think that we're at another founding moment."

Nichols referenced Thomas Paine and suggested that this endeavor - a propped-up media in this digital information age is needed for achievements, hopes, demands for "journalism in the 21st century.