Save the press

Nonprofit journalism could save public dialogue in trying times.

In another blow to MinneapolisâÄô hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune recently announced 100 layoffs, 30 of which will be in the newsroom âÄî a 10 percent cut. All across the country, corporate news continues to slash coverage, close bureaus and shun resource-intensive investigation. Large daily papers from the Rocky Mountain News to the Seattle Post Intelligencer have shuttered their presses and contributed to the incremental decline in diversity of quality local news sources. While the news business succumbs to shrinking advertising budgets (the DailyâÄôs own has dropped 46 percent since 2005), debt-fueled consolidation and mismanagement, the art of good journalism is as needed as ever. Complex financial instruments and government rescue plans need to be explained, international conflicts in distant lands need to be made personal and political candidates need to be held accountable. The decline in journalism threatens the free flow of information upon which any strong democracy rests. To maintain high-quality journalism, more news gathering should be removed from the profit-driven corporate market. FloridaâÄôs St. Petersburg Times, for example, has become a nonprofit institution attached to a journalism school. It has since won several Pulitzer Prizes and runs the widely cited politifact.com, a nonbiased source to verify the accuracy of politiciansâÄô statements. This and other models of nonprofit journalism are essential to the future of the craft. It is time for the federal government, as protector of our First Amendment rights, to step in and lead the way forward. A National Endowment for Journalism is needed to safeguard quality dialogue in our public forum.