25th October 2010: ‘Quality’ Journalism and Defunding NPR

New York Sun founding editor Seth Lipsky contends public choice theory is one way to resolve the dilemma of how to fund ‘quality’ journalism:

The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, has emerged as a leading voice for pouring more government money into news gathering. How badly would that chill the capital markets for those who dream of privately funded news gathering, completely independent of oversight by Congress? My guess is that the effect would be a great deal more significant than those who have not been out trying to raise such capital might imagine.

Lipsky made his comments after NPR fired reporter Juan Williams for perceived anti-Muslim comments. High-profile Republicans then suggested that NPR’s federal government funding and subsidies should be cut. For Lipsky, a competitive government means less space for efficient capital markets and venture entrepreneurs who can fund ‘quality’ journalism.

However, Lipsky leaves out a third option: foundations and grant-makers that establish special funds for investigative journalism. Barry Saunders and I examined this in a conference paper and presentation on ‘quality media’ and investigative journalism. For example, The Huffington Post announced on 20th October that it will transfer its HuffPo Investigative Fund to the Centre for Public Integrity. The merger consolidates grant-maker funding and newsroom resources for nonpartisan investigative journalism projects.