News Media Budget Cuts & Democracy


I’ve written about the loss of news media as potentially harmful to our democracy not because we’ll have fewer voices — clearly there’s no dearth of voices and opinions on the blogosphere. But because we’ll have fewer sources of fact rather than opinion.

Blog favorite Brian Stelter at the New York Times makes a similar point in today’s paper (it’s still available in paper format), When the President Travels, It’s Cheaper for Reporters to Stay Home.

As news organizations continue to seek cost savings as much as they seek the latest headline, fewer organizations are paying to have their reporters and producers fly on the charter plane that accompanies the President because the costs can be very high. The current process is that each news organization sending someone on the charter plane shares the cost of the total airfare.

The problem: As fewer organizations send reporters on the charter, the airfare per organization increases. That becomes a downward spiral, says the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association: with fewer organizations able to foot the bill, the price increases, causing more organizations to drop out.

Now how does this impact democracy?

The fewer people who have access to the President to be able to report about what he does, what he says, with whom he meets, etc., the less real information we have about him, his thoughts, etc. And I think that’s right — we need access and coverage of the current president just as we need it for any past president.

Now we can’t force news organizations to spend the money to cover the White House. But a while back, organizations like CBS News felt they had to serve the public interest and treat the news as if it is not a profit center. No one thinks like that anymore, though some think of news as a cost center.

That’s a step back for democracy.

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