Assignment: How to pay for news coverage?

constitutionThe Constitution protects freedom of the press, but covering the news isn’t free.
Your writing assignment – due March 29 – is to explore ways to pay for coverage of the news and issues of public interest. The Internet and digital technology has disrupted traditional business models.
American newspapers traditionally provided most coverage of local government and community issues. But more than 40,000 people who once worked at newspapers have lost their jobs or taken buyouts since 2007. News coverage – from local to international -has diminished. Many newspapers have closed foreign bureaus.
Newspaper advertising has plummeted. Most newspapers used to have thriving classified ad sections, but free online sites such as Craigslist helped end most of those.
Some newspapers are charging readers for online access, but that’s had mixed results. Some readers refuse to pay for news since there is so much they find for free.
Non-profit journalism organizations such as the Pulitzer Center have worked to fill gaps in coverage. Other organizations – such as the Knight Foundation – give millions of dollars to entrepreneurs who come up with novel ways to cover the news.
Dozens of websites – for instance, Bleacher Report – offer hyper-local coverage. These websites often blend professional, amateur and citizen journalism.
The difficulty is finding ways to pay for coverage. Some say it’s best to let free markets sort it out, even if that leads to sensationalism and a priority on such creations as Honey Boo Boo. Others say public service journalism is turning into just another creative field such as art or poetry, and journalists will just have to struggle and find a way to pay for it.
What do you think? Does it matter that there are fewer journalists around to discover and report on such stories as the Bell, Calif., city manager who gave himself a salary of more than $800,000, more than double that of the president?
Who should pay for news coverage that is carried out in the public interest? Should non-profit journalism organizations do these stories? Or citizen journalists? Or is it best to let market forces drive journalism, even if it leads to superficial, sensational or sometimes meaningless coverage?
Write a three-page paper, typed, about these issues. Cite at least five sources from the reading material that I will provide to you.
Papers will be graded on grammar, punctuation, whether you cite reading material sources, and how well you support your arguments.
Papers are due March 29. No late assignments accepted without a medical or sports excuse.

Robert Rizzo. Photo: Zimbio

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