Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Journalism is struggling to survive. In the past decade, U.S. newspaper ad revenues have fallen from about $20 billion in 2010 to $10 billion in 2020. That’s meant fewer reporters keeping local politicians accountable and more room for a flood of disinformation that has confused voters. Politicians have started to realize that reporters — while often pesky — are crucial to stopping democratic backsliding.

In 2023, governments will invest in creative ways to support journalists. And journalists will begin to soften their objections to government funding as they come to realize that, if the funding mechanisms are well designed, it can be better than relying on Big Tech dollars.

A handful of journalism rescue efforts are already underway. The International Fund for Public Interest Media is seeking to raise $1 billion to fund journalism around the world. The Biden administration has pledged up to $30 million to the fund — a decent start. In September, the European Union passed a law preventing member states from interfering with the coverage of publicly funded media.

Even in the U.S., where government funding of journalism is less common, some states are taking action to solve the local news crisis. The California legislature granted $25 million to UC-Berkeley to strengthen local reporting in underserved communities. In 2021, New Jersey set up a commission that gives out annual grants to promote local journalism.

If democracy is going to survive, we’re going to need to fund its watchdogs.

Julia Angwin is founder and editor-at-large of The Markup.

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