I’ve been as frustrated as anyone by the fact that the internet advertising business models have not filtered down to news publishers, because it does seem like a real lost opportunity. However, it’s kind of weird to see a couple of laid off journalists announce a project to “protect” journalism that seems to consist entirely of whining about big tech. It’s literally called the “Save Journalism Project” but they have no plans to actually “save journalism.”
Their new project will be set up as a nonprofit, according to Eddie Vale, a Democratic consultant whose firm is helping launch the effort. Vale pitched Bassett on the idea, and the two of them brought in Stanton. Vale said initial funding had been secured from “someone who doesn’t want to be public so Google and Facebook don’t go after them,” and the group plans to continue to fundraise. So far, the pair have coauthored testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighting the tech giants’ impact on the news industry — “since being laid off, we’ve made it our mission to understand how the digital marketplace works and how Big Tech is killing the journalism industry,” they wrote — flown a plane above Google’s I/O conference, and authored op-eds.
Wow. Flying a plane over a Google conference. That’ll save journalism.
At the moment, Stanton and Bassett are more focused on warning the public and the industry about the issue than on proposing solutions.
“I do think that everyone is starting to see a need to break up and regulate these companies or something along those lines,” Bassett said. “And with regards to how they’re going to make journalism viable again, I don’t frankly know…I think right now we’re starting with just getting this conversation out into the public and making people aware of exactly what’s going on. I do hope at some point we graduate into saying, ‘here’s a list of policy proposals, here’s exactly what needs to happen.’”
Even if you believe the (debatable) claim that Google and Facebook are somehow to blame for the decline in advertising revenue to news sites, I’m left scratching my head over what good complaining about big tech actually does. Also “break up and regulate or something along those lines”? Again, I think there’s a valuable discussion to be had about how best to help fund journalism. It is pretty damn key to my own livelihood. But, this organization isn’t set up to have an “open” discussion. It has already insisted what the problem is (“big tech”) without being able to support that argument, and then says “something must be done” and so far it’s just whining about big tech.
I fail to see how that’s productive. There are lots of smart, thoughtful people who have put a lot of work into a variety of arguments about how to deal with the big internet companies. Some of them I agree with and some of them I don’t, but I’m at a near total loss as to how merely whining does anything at all to save journalism.
Permalink | Comments | Email This Story