While we’re very interested in business and very interested in journalism, we have concluded that serious journalism is a lousy business and that business principles are lousy for serious journalism. Clergymen are fond of saying that when you mix politics and religion you get politics. The mix of serious journalism and business is even worse: it yields businesses that aren’t worth investing in. Accordingly, the woes of newspaper industry remind us of the great Woody Allen line: “it’s not that your problems aren’t serious; it’s just that they’re not very interesting.”
We’re extremely fond of markets. But having poked around in both the for-profit and non-profit aspects of the journalism world for the last two years or so, we’ve adopted a very strong point of view. Serious-minded, public service journalism is a public good. By definition, we can’t expect markets to provide public goods in sufficient quantities. Said differently, the sad and declining state of public interest journalism today represents a market failure.