Newspaper pluralism

By Reihan Salam

On Thursday, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times, gave a thoughtful address on the subject of "news literacy," and it makes for an instructive contrast with the excellent Sullivan-approved Clay Shirky essay on the future of the news business.

The headline-grabber in Sulzberger's address, if you can call it that, was the perhaps unsurprising news that, as PaidContent.org noted, the Times "continues in its efforts to divine "how paid content can augment [its] core advertising business."

Because this is a subject that has pored over by any number of journos, I'm reluctant to dwell on it too much. Micropayments, also known as the "iTunes model," strike me as straightforwardly inapplicable to this terrain, for all the reasons Shirky cites. What is worth keeping in mind is that the newspaper as we know it is a relatively recent artifact, one that dates back to the days of William Randolph Hearst and the yellow press. And over the the course of this historical moment, there have been a number of business models, including non-profit models. I would frankly be surprised if something like a "national endowment for journalism," as proposed by Bruce Ackerman of Ian Ayres of Yale Law School, was not attempted in one of the advanced market democracies at some point over the next decade.

On a slightly tangential note, the non-profit Guardian newspaper in England has long been effectively subsidized by paid advertisements for public sector jobs, an old arrangement that the Conservative shadow cabinet has proposed ending.

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http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/03/newspaper-pluralism/1546/