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How to Save Journalism

November 30, 2009

by John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney
from The Nation

We will give you the good news first: the politicians and regulators who have it in their power to do something about the decline of American journalism are finally paying attention.

Already this year, House and Senate hearings have investigated the crisis. And even as Congress focuses this fall on healthcare reform and rising unemployment, all signs suggest that media matters will be back on the front burner in 2010, one hopes with less focus on what’s gone awry and more on proposals to set things right. Encouragingly, federal agencies are taking tentative steps that could produce those proposals.

In early December the Federal Trade Commission will hold an unprecedented hearing to assess the radical downsizing and outright elimination of newspaper newsrooms and to consider public-policy measures that might arrest a precipitous collapse in reporting and editing of the news. The FTC staffers who have organized this hearing give the distinct impression of being seriously concerned about the crisis and seriously interested in responding to it. The Federal Communications Commission is also launching an extraordinary review of the state of journalism. The work was spearheaded initially by FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who has as firm a grasp of the problem as any player in Washington. The FCC review likely will emphasize the disintegration of local journalism. Its findings could also lead to sweeping changes in fundamental regulations. more

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